By Victor O'Brien

Killeen Daily Herald

Latin American art and culture shined brightly at Saturday's night's "White Christmas from Puerto Rico" gala.

The League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4535 and La Casa De Puerto Rico celebrated with art, dancing and food at a gala event, hosting more than 200 locals at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

The event was an opportunity for Gladys Casteleiro, founder and president of La Casa de Puerto Rico, to showcase her vision. She hopes Puerto Rican-born sculptor Felix Velez will bring to fruition Casteleiro's longtime dream of having a statue commemorating fallen Puerto Rican soldiers.

Casteleiro plans to begin raising funds next year to build matching statues in Killeen and her hometown Bayamon, Puerto Rico, to symbolize a sister-city union between the two cities.

A design print was displayed of a life-sized bronze sculpture featuring an angel holding a fallen soldier in its arms with the United States and Puerto Rican flags at the angel's feet.

Velez, the gala's guest speaker, said he was honored to be the selected sculptor. Velez spoke about how his art, which depicts the majesty of animal and human forms, is an homage to God, who Velez credits with enabling his success.

"It just reminds us that God, he creates everything. God is the first sculptor," he said.

Raul Villaronga, LULAC foundation chairman, said the gala showcased the richness of Hispanic art and culture within the community.

"I believe when a community works together we empower the community. When you empower the community you also empower the city you live in," Casteleiro said.

Also Saturday, awards were presented to 10 community visionaries and three leadership groups who furthered the Hispanic cultural presence in Killeen, Villaronga said.

Six local debutantes were presented to society: Amber Bolivar Alva, Yesenia Sanchez, Sarah Ann Elliot Parker, Yassirie Moreno, Christina Andreas Tapia and Ruth Castillo.

Proceeds from the Killeen hotel and motel tax helped make Saturday's gala possible.

Contact Victor O'Brien at or (254) 501-7468

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