Sporting a bright red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag T-shirt, Al Garcia, a native of San Juan, proudly expressed his heritage, “Today everyone is from Puerto Rico,” Garcia said.

Uniting all people was the goal of the inaugural Puerto Rican Heritage Festival on Sunday at The Shack Caribbean Seafood & Grill, located at 1612 E. Farm-to-Market 2410 in Harker Heights.

The daylong event celebrated Nov. 19, Día del Descubrimiento de Puerto Rico (Discovery of Puerto Rico Day), along with the restaurant’s grand opening on Nov. 15 under new owners, Jesus and Sharon Munoz.

The disaster caused by the recent hurricanes on the island prompted them to give back to the local area. “Since we’re new in the community, we wanted to integrate ourselves in it and what better way than with a festival,” said Jesus Munoz, who recently retired from the Army.

Hundreds of people swelled the area around the family-oriented restaurant where the Munoz’s four adult children also work. “Everyone’s loving the festival and we’re thrilled,” said Sharon Munoz.

Almost 20 vendors offered everything from homemade crafts to authentic foods, like paella, empanadas and tostones, plus traditional festival fair of hot dogs, hamburgers and funnel cakes and more.

Peter Cruz munched on the bacalaitos (fried codfish fritters) saying the food was a main draw for him. “It’s delicious home cooking,” Cruz said.

Several other restaurants, like Hierba Fresca Restaurant in Killeen, also offered various foods.

Local performers provided the entertainment, including Puerto Rican Kids Folklore Dance Group dressed in colorful costumes, and a Dominoes tournament took place on the patio.

“I love this festival and it’s nice to also see other cultures recognized,” said Frank Sepulveda of Killeen.

Festival organizers, Jose and Cynthia Colon, coordinated the entire event in barely a month.

“It’s the people that are making it a success, and we’re happy to help out,” he said.

Some guests came from San Antonio, Austin and Maria Ramos brought her two daughters from Waco; they couldn’t get enough of the petting zoo.

“It’s worth the trip to see a nice festival like this one,” Ramos said.

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