Musical rhythms of Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Cuban and other Latin-American music bounced off the walls of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Brucker Hall for the Hispanic Heritage Month observance Sept. 25.

Hispanic Heritage Month started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Ronald Reagan expanded it in 1988. American citizens whose ancestors come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America tend to celebrate the month. Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is the month for commemoration. Sept. 15 is the independence of the Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. It is noted that Sept. 16 is Independence Day for Mexico and Sept. 18 for Chile’s independence.

“We join to celebrate the culture, contributions and heritage of Hispanic Americans,” Peeples said. “Collectively, Hispanic Americans represent more than 500 years of history and the culture of traditions of 20 nations. They form a vital part of America’s rich and diverse social fabric.”

Peeples added that from the War of 1812 to most recent conflicts, America’s history of Hispanic men and women have shown their allegiance through military service by answering the call to arms. Nearly 15 percent of enlisted personnel in the Army are Hispanic, and 18 percent of enlisted personnel are Hispanic in the Marine Corps.

“Sixty Hispanics have been awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military decoration,” Peeples said. “Through their outstanding contributions they have certainly done their part to help shape and build our military and our nation. Let us take pride — not just in contributions to this nation, but in their unique and vibrant culture as well, and certainly their music is an inspiring part of that culture.”

The observances hosted by JBM-HH’s Equal Opportunity are a way to honor and commemorate people of different cultures. Peeples added it is imperative to learn each other’s cultures because it proves everyone has something to give.

During the observance, the U.S. Army Blues Band and Latin Music Ensemble performed selections about Hispanic culture.

Master Sgt. Pablo Talamante performed the national anthem at the observance, and he sang a few songs with the musicians. He said he is from northern Mexico and joined the Army in 1992. He and Master Sgt. Antonio Orta, director of the show, joked it would be a three to four hour show if the band and ensemble performed the different musical rhythms and famous Latin-American songs from Mexico to Argentina.

One of the songs he sang was “La Calandria” a story about a male bird singing to a female bird that was in a cage. She told him if he let her out the cage, she would go with him. The female bird led the male bird on, and never went with him. His heart was broken in the process.

Another song performed was “Café, Tabaco, Y Azúcar” a song about coffee, tobacco and sugar.

Orta, of Puerto Rican heritage, said those products were the main exports in Cuba in the first half of the 1900s. The song was written by Cuban composer César Orozco in memory of those exports that do not exist anymore.

The observance also had merengue music from the Dominican Republic; tango music, which according to Orta has Argentinian and Uruguayan influence and a medley of Puerto Rican plenas.

“Plenas are a traditional Puerto Rican groove,” Antonio said. “Legend says the plenas used to be news for poor people. If something happened, people would grab what we call panderos and start singing chants of recent events or if something was coming, like a hurricane.”

Orta said it is important to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month.

“I think it is important so the other cultures know the contributions of this minority group,” Orta said. “Not everybody in the country has contact with this group or knows anything about the culture. This celebration explodes the culture a little more and it is an opportunity for Hispanics to showcase and remind the rest of the community what we have to offer.”

Pentagram Staff Writer Katrina Wilson can be reached at kmoses@dcmilitary.com.