By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen's kaleidoscope of nationalities, richer than most small cities because of Fort Hood, includes a wide variety from south of the border, and the 35-year-old Sociedad Cultural Hispanoamericana drew as many as it could to the Killeen Civic and Conference Center Sunday afternoon.
The Fiesta de Samba y Salsa included performances by three local groups and the drum-and-dance ensemble Samba Vida from San Antonio.
The local companies were Soncache, performing salsa, merengue and bachata; the Puerto Rican Kids Folklore; and Folklore America. Also on the program was an enactment of the history of the Aztec Indians of Mexico by John Jaramillo.
The annual event celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with the aim of sharing Hispanic culture with all parts of the community. Many participants are active-duty military personnel and their families.
In many numbers, elementary-age children danced alongside adults. All generations were represented, including many founding members of the society. Its founder and first president, Elena Garcia, is 90 years old this year, said current president Reyna Martinez, a Puerto Rican native.
During the performance by Puerto Rican Kids Folklore, Edwin Ramos, one of the announcers, urged the audience, "Help them out! Applaud! These are our children here!"
Ramos, a sergeant first class at Fort Hood, said he is allowed to take time off during duty days to help lead the festival "because the community gives to the Army and the Army wants to give back to the community."
Around the perimeter of the room were a half-dozen vendors selling ethnic clothes, jewelry and other merchandise.
An intermission in the program included a meal served by Taqueria Mexico Lindo, and festivities ended with dancing by the audience. Some couldn't wait; as speakers belted out recorded music while the groups got ready, both children and adults were whirling on the dance floor.
Martinez said the heritage group includes natives of Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and Honduras, as well as the United States.
"Our mission is to share the Hispanic culture through educational programs of music, dancing, painting and poetry reading," she said.
The registered nonprofit group is partly supported by state and city arts funding.
Its literature says it was founded "with a mission to promote the arts and culture of Hispanics and foster a great understanding among the diverse cultural groups living in Killeen by means of interchanging ideas through educational and cultural programs.
"Our purpose is to share the Hispanic culture with other groups to help bridge ethnic and cultural obstacles through affordable programs."
Starting with 10 members in 1975, the Sociedad is now made up of more than 100 families.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.