Submitted by: MCRD Parris Island
Story Identification Number: 200391273848
Story by Cpl. Alisha R. Fitzgerald

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C.(Sept. 12, 2003) -- Each year, from Sept. 15 - Oct. 15, America honors the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made and continue to make to our nation by observing National Hispanic Heritage Month.

With 21,653 enlisted Marines of Hispanic origin, according to the 2002 Marines Almanac, this time holds special meaning for many Depot personnel and their families.
Since 1968, America has observed the tradition by celebrating the heritage, history and accomplishments of Hispanic Americans through celebrations, activities and educational material during September.

The observance first originated as National Hispanic Heritage Week during the week of Sept. 15. In 1988, the observance was extended by President Ronald Reagan to an entire month, beginning Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15, and was designated National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The time of the celebration corresponds with significant events in many Spanish-speaking countries' history. Monday, the first day of the Hispanic Heritage celebration, marks the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
In addition, Tuesday is the anniversary of Mexican independence, and Thursday marks the independence day for Chile.

By honoring the achievements of these countries and their people, America celebrates its own history and heritage. The Hispanic people were among the earliest settlers in the New World, and the accounts of their ventures into the uncharted territories of the Southeast and Southwest form part of our literary and historical heritage. There are also many significant contributions that are evident in art, architecture and cuisine, especially in the Southwest.

The Southwest may be one of the most highly concentrated areas of Hispanic Americans, but Hispanics live throughout the country. The term Hispanic, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. On the 2000 Census form, people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or "other Spanish/Hispanic/ Latino."
More than 35 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino on the 2000 Census.

"Not only is Hispanic history the most ancient part of European-derived American history, it is among the most currently applicable - the background of the fastest growing component of the American population," wrote Jerry L. Rodgers, superintendent of the National Preservation Society's Southwest Support Office.

Since Hispanic culture has been such a strong component in shaping American history, and the Hispanic population continues to grow every day, many feel to recognize these contributions through the month-long celebration is a way of celebrating America.

"It is not only important that we set aside a time to recognize Hispanics, but every ethnicity that exists in America," said Cpl. Luis Cordova, an orders clerk at Depot Consolidated Administrative Center and a native of Mexico. "This country was founded by immigrants, so nobody is a true American, except for the Native Americans."

The Marine Corps could not be a better example of America's melting pot. It is a true representation of the nationalities that make up America's population. To many Hispanic Marines, there is no better way to show appreciation for a new life than serving the country that provided it.

"So many of us come here with one goal in mind, and that is to better ourselves," said Cordova, who has been in America for nine years. "By being a Marine and overcoming all the adversity it took to get me here, it shows that this really is the land of opportunity. I plan to take advantage of it to the fullest, but I'll never forget where I come from."

Cordova and the rest of the DCAC section will be celebrating National Hispanic Heritage
Month with a dinner in which all of the Hispanic Marines will bring a dish that represents their specific nationality in an effort to share their culture with the others.

For more information about what other events are happening in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month, call the Depot Equal Employment Opportunity Office at 228-2647.