MSC Celebrates Contributions of Latino Culture in Observance of Hispanic Heritage Month
By Shevonne Cleveland, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs
Military Sealift Command joined the nation Sept. 23 in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, with the theme “Shaping the Bright Future of America.” Military and civilian teammates gathered for the observance at Ely Hall on Norfolk Naval Station.
The nation recognizes and celebrates the contributions made, and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States, Sept.15 to Oct.15.
Guest speaker of the event, Bianca Negron Castro, Human Resource Specialist in Training and Workforce Development for Canon Virginia, was born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico. Her presentation addressed negative and misleading stereotypes aimed at Hispanics and Latinos, and presented practical ways to foster a more inclusive work environment.
“We are not all Mexican,” said Castro. “And we are not all undocumented. We have to acknowledge the benefits of having differences and diversity.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau the estimated Hispanic population of the United States is over 50 million, or 16 percent of the U.S. population and Hispanics are the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority. More than 43,000 people of Hispanic origin are Sailors and civilians serving with the U.S. Navy.
Military Sealift Command has three ships bearing the namesakes of Latinos. USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez (T-AK 3010) was named after a first lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for smothering a hand grenade with his own body during the Inchon Landing on Sept. 15, 1950. USNS Benavidez (T-AKR 306) is named after Master Sergeant Raul Perez “Roy” Benavidez, a member of the United States Army Special Forces who received the Medal of Honor for his valorous actions in combat near Loc Ninh, South Vietnam, on May 2, 1968. USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) is named after Mexican American civil rights leader and activist Cesar Estrada Chavez.
“I believe, it’s great to celebrate Hispanic heritage, but I don’t think it should just be a day, or just a month because we embrace our culture every single day,” said Castro.
Hispanic Heritage Week was established by legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal and first proclaimed President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. The commemorative week was expanded by legislation sponsored by Rep. Esteban E. Torres and implemented by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.
Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on Sep. 16, Sep. 18, and Sep. 21 respectively.