The Hainerberg Exchange was filled with vibrant colors, music, dancing, clapping and smiles as U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month Oct. 15. The observance was a way to celebrate the history, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, Central and South America and some parts of the Caribbean
Guest speaker and journalist Rafael Rodriguez, originally from Quito, Ecuador, talked about his experience moving to Germany and becoming a “family man” and entrepreneur.
He came to Germany with no plan, but made a name for himself selling empanadas, a stuffed bread pastry typically filled with beef. He struggled initially with the language and finding work, and soon realized he would have to get creative.
“It was clear to me that my only chance to do anything here in Germany was with education and apprenticeship,” said Rodriguez.
Despite his initial struggles, he was able to find success here, which is why he had a clear message to deliver to the crowd in attendance. “Whatever you want, it is possible to get,” Rodriguez said.
The 5th Signal Command hosted the event, which featured traditional dancers with detailed dresses, traditional food, piñatas, Day of the Dead face painting and Zumba demonstrations. Zumba is offered Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Fitness Center.
The first featured dance was a cumbia. This dance originated from the days of slavery and comes from an African word, cumbe, meaning dance. Cumbia music and dance is popular throughout Latin America. The melodic genre, which began as a courtship dance on the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Panama, brings together African, indigenous and European cultures with a blend of drums and flute melody.
Dancers also performed the tamborito, considered the highest expression of Panamanian folk art. Tamborito combines dance, music, lyrics and native costume. It is said to have also originated from the dances of slaves.
Arantxa Hackett Tuero, a student at the University of Maryland University College, performed a flamenco dance at the event. Flamenco has become popular all over the world and includes singing (cante), guitar (toque), dance (baile), vocalizations (jaleo), clapping (palmas) and snapping (pitos).
Tuero said the Hispanic Heritage observance was great because it helped people learn about the different traditions. “It involves a lot of cultural background,” she said. “It opens the entire Latin and Hispanic community to those who don’t know much about it.”