Central Texas College invited students to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting a cultural event in its Anderson Student Center on Thursday afternoon.

This is the second year the district has put on the event, which featured food, music and information about Hispanic culture.

“Killeen is a very diverse place, and we try to represent all the unique cultures it has,” said Mariceli Vargas, the event organizer and the college’s director of Student Life and Activities. “These events give them a chance to learn more about those different cultures.”

This year, the event focused on the people and culture of Panama. Vargas said Killeen and Central Texas are home to a strong community of Panamanians, thanks in part to the military presence both in the South American country and at Fort Hood. Angie McNeal is the director

of Las Estrella de Panama, a local dance group that performs traditional dances in native Panamanian dress. McNeal and the group’s five other members perform locally and throughout Texas and overseas.

Speaking shortly before she took the stage at CTC’s event Thursday, McNeal said she enjoyed sharing her heritage with others through dance.

“We are very proud of our culture,” she said. “This is a chance for us to share our traditions with people who might not know about them.”

McNeal said preserving those traditions for future generations was also an important part of what the group does.

“We want our young people to remember their heritage,” she said.

The observance of Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. It was expanded by President Ronald Reagan and was enacted into law in August 1988.

The national observance of Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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