By Staff Sgt. Luis Orengo

Multinational Division-Baghdad public affairs

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq — Cold weather in Baghdad is not an excuse to miss the ravishing-hot sounds of Ritmo Latino (Latin Rhythm) ensemble, as it performed Thursday in front of eager spectators at the Division Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent.

The group is part of the various musical ensembles that comprise the 4th Infantry Division Band, each one with a different musical style, but all with the same mission.

“Our main purpose here is to give the audience a chance to get away from their daily routine and stress and enjoy their evening in a very nice way,” said Sgt. Luis Feliciano, bass player and director of the ensemble. “This way, we help keep the morale up while performing.”

The ensemble’s musicians are from Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and places as far away as Bolivia and Puerto Rico.

“After our last deployment in Iraq, the ensemble lost 70 percent of its members due to moving and changes,” said Feliciano. “This group is basically a new one, and we have been practicing for the last eight months. We have come a long way in order to please our audience.”

For a little over two hours, the crowd listened to the swing of merengue, salsa, bachata and reggaeton, which — though they may be strange musical terms in the English dictionary — gave the audience the opportunity to travel to faraway places without leaving Iraq.

“Experiences like this one are special because it helps to bond soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and civilians in a special way. It really is an important morale event for every one,” said Air Force Capt. Hallie Day.

For the members of the ensemble, the purpose of bringing a little joy to every one is worth the effort.

“We are musicians, and this is what we do: bringing joy and entertainment here or anywhere it’s needed,” Feliciano said. “We are doing it for everybody deployed here, and if they dance, laugh and enjoy themselves with our performance, then we have done our job right.”

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