By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

About 400 Killeen residents with roots in many Latin American countries as well as Korea and Hawaii attended Killeen's annual Fiesta Hispanoamericana Sunday afternoon at the Civic and Convention Center.

The annual celebration dates from the time the sponsoring Sociedad Cultural Hispanoamerica (Hispanic-American Cultural Society) was formed in 1975, said organizing committee member and host Pedro Santiago. He said it has grown every year. Dances and musical acts, many featuring young people, highlighted the cultures of Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico and other locales.

"People tend to think Hispanic culture is all the same, but it's widely varied," Santiago said. "For example, a lively, high-energy Mexican dance just finished. Now you see a slower, more thoughtful Panamanian dance that tells a story, this one about a man courting a woman. The differences are many and deep, but the one thing we all share is our heritage in the mother country, Spain."

Fort Hood draws a wide variety of cultures together, said Efrain Alvarez, who retired from the Army and now works for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Temple.

"All the minorities band together at events like this and help each other," Alvarez said.

The group's motto, displayed on a wall banner, is "Si Se Puedo," which Alvarez said means, "Yes, you can." It's aimed at the younger generation and anyone else whose spirits might droop when they feel marginalized.

All of the groups on Sunday's program are locally based except for Semeneya from San Antonio, led by Lee Rios, and Bailes Espanoles from Dallas, led by Daniel de Cordoba. The Dallas group's rsum includes performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Dallas' Majestic Theater, Latino Cultural Center and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Local acts included Baile Folklorico de Panama, Ballet Folklorico de Colores, Puerto Rican Kids Folk Dance (Plena), Puerto Rico Jibaro Jam, Poesia Negroide ("Majestad Negra"), and Puerto Rican Kids Folk Dance (Bomba).

The program was supported in part by the City of Killeen hotel occupancy tax revenues and a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.

The society participates in many other local activities.

In June, it was one of several participating in retiring an old United States flag and raising a new one at Killeen's American Legion Post 223.

Current president is Reyna Martinez.

Contact Don Bolding at dbolding@kdh

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