Several hundred area residents made their way to the Killeen Civic and Conference Center on Sunday to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the Sociedad Cultural Hispanoamericana organization.
The annual event features traditional Hispanic dances and music and showcases vendors from various countries.
“Each year we choose one country as the main focus so that people can come and learn about new countries and their cultures each time, and this year we chose Panama,” organization president Nelson Santiago said. “We have Panamanian vendors here and Panamanian dance groups.”
There were Panamanian performers at the event from both near and far. The performance groups at the event included Grupo Folklorico Estrella de Panama, Folklore y Ritmos de Panama, Salsosos de Killeen and Panatex.
Some groups traveled from Panama to be at the Civic Center on Sunday, while others were from Killeen and Austin.
Even the groups from Austin had strong Panamanian ties, however, as many of the performers were from Panama originally.
“All of us who are here today were born and raised in Panama,” said Sulipsa Luque, a dancer with the Folklore y Ritmos de Panama group. “Even some of our families perform in the group with us; some of our husbands and children dance with us.”
Luque said the group has performed all over, once even traveling to Panama to take part in the Desfile de las Mil Polleras, which is a parade held annually in the country.
The group also traveled to Washington, D.C., last year to perform in the capital.
“Our mission is to take our culture to different places through original dances and costumes from different regions from Panama,” Luque said.
In addition to multiple Panamanian groups being at the event, there were several performers and vendors from Puerto Rico. One of the headliners of the event, singer Julio Cesar Sanabria, was set to perform at 4:30 p.m.
“We have a lot of people from Puerto Rico here too, because after Hurricane Maria last year a lot of Puerto Ricans moved to Killeen,” Santiago said.