Fort Hood holds Hispanic Heritage Month celebration

Herald/TJ MAXWELL - Madeline Schwartsman sings the American National Anthem during opening ceremonies at the Fort Hood Hispanic Heritage Festival at the Abrams Physical Fitness Center on Friday, September 17. -

By Jackie Stone

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - Local band Grupo Son Cache kicked off the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration on post Friday, keeping time as children in sombreros bounced American flag beach balls while adults around them ate and tapped their feet or began to salsa in place.

The event was hosted by Fort Hood's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation with III Corps Equal Opportunity at the Abrams Physical Fitness Center to bring a slice of Hispanic and Latin culture to the soldiers at Fort Hood and their families, regardless of whether they were getting an education or a taste of home.

The Killeen-based band that started the celebration Friday represented both the military and Hispanic heritage. The six members of Grupo Son Cache include three active-duty soldiers, one recruiter, a retired staff sergeant and one civilian, with most of the band hailing from Puerto Rico.

The members of Son Cache switched between different styles of Latin music, from salsa to meringue.

Juan Carlos Santiago, the band leader and timbales player, said they play around the state, but he particularly enjoys playing for the troops.

"They deserve it. They deserve good music, especially on this occasion for a Hispanic celebration," he said. "Since the Army has all different people - Latino, black, white - it's good for all of us to play for them."

While Fort Hood has held observances of Hispanic Heritage month in the past with speakers and some events, Friday marked the first time FMWR had joined in to expand the event, said Sgt. 1st Class Veronica Stuart, with III Corps Equal Opportunity advisory.

"We celebrate it every year, but this is the first time we've had a celebration," she said.

One of the most notable expansions was the range of the entertainment.

Comedian and native Puerto Rican Shayla Rivera emceed the event. Rivera performed at Fort Hood last year and is a veteran at playing to the troops with several tours to forward operating bases under her belt.

"My family has a big military history and I really appreciate what our men and women are doing out there, and if we can bring them a little taste of home, that's great," she said.

Of course, the subject matter Friday was nice too.

"I love being with any Latino people. A party, a fiesta - I'm there. And salsa music? Sign me up," she said.

Two performance dance groups, Puerto Rican Kids Folklore and Ballet Folklorico Alegria, took the floor later to show off their moves, while soldiers turned instructor for the evening taught audience members Latin dances.

In addition to the performers, food and drink was available from family readiness groups. Other booths had information and recipes for people to take home.

"We want people to come out here and learn, and we want the Hispanic soldiers to get out here and enjoy themselves," Stuart said.

Contact Jackie Stone at or (254) 501-7548. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcityeditor.

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