By Olga Pena
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD Cultural pride and political prowess went head-to-head Friday in an evening where the multi-ethnic diversity of Central Texas was well-represented.
With the room at the Fort Hood Officers Club draped in red and white as the Sociedad Cultural Hispanoamericana celebrated its 30th anniversary, several political candidates made their pitches to the Latino community, asking for their votes.
The four-time president and current vice president of the Hispanic society, Victor Sanchez, said that while the night was about celebrating three decades of Latino unity and education, the focus was also to tell politicians that Hispanic residents are important voters and are here to stay.
Latin people count. We are here and they need us to win, Sanchez said, adding that the event also teaches the Latin community the importance of voting. We need to vote to be known. We are just as American as them.
Speaking in Spanish, county judge candidate John P. Galligan held the audiences attention as he stated his long history with the Hispanic community in foreign lands, including his many years spent in Puerto Rico.
I understand you, your culture, your language and the importance you make in the fabric of American life, Galligan said.
Richard Dick Young, Precinct 2 county commissioner candidate, also addressed the crowd, citing the importance of being accessible by having an office in Killeen.
Mary Beth Harrell, Democratic candidate for U.S. representative for District 31, could not be present, but had her husband, Bob, speak on her behalf.
Laughter and cheers rang out as Democratic Bell County clerk candidate Rosa Linda Martinez Hernandez proudly announced, in Spanish, that she was the only Hispanic on the county clerk ballot and telling the crowd, Im your candidate.
Republican Trudy Stuart also asked for votes in the county clerk race, while Republican Bob Barina made his plea for votes in the County Court at Law Judge No. 2 race.
Dan Corbin, Republican candidate for state representative, District 54, said he had both the experience and education to serve his constituents and emphasized his belief in not receiving contributions from lobbyists and special-interest groups.
While the politicians part of the celebration was brief, the cultural society along with the League of United Latin American Citizens, Multi-Ethnic Cultural and Arts Association and other multi-ethnic groups enjoyed festivities well into the night.
Elena Garcia, who started the Hispanic-American society in 1976, was present and communicated her joy at witnessing the strength of diversity thriving and growing.
I feel so proud because now I see the product of my work, Garcia said.
After speeches, a proclamation by Mayor Maureen Jouett congratulated the society on 30 years of excellence, and several groups performed native dances in authentic garb.
Dancers representing Panama, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Hawaii garnered enthusiastic crowd participation with their ethnic beats and colorful dresses.
Garcias expression as she watched the fanfare told her story a Latin woman who began an organization in an effort to dispel cultural prejudice, ignorance and stereotyping, now witnessing people of every shade, culture and tongue coming together to celebrate diversity.
Contact Olga Peña at firstname.lastname@example.org