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Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15 and runs through October 15! During this month-long period we are reviewing the history and contributions of the Hispanic communities, as well as highlighting a few deserving members of this group from RAF Lakenheath's own community! 

Split over two months to encompass many Latin American countries' independence days, Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans whose ancestors come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua kick off the month by all celebrating their independence on September 15. Mexico celebrates theirs on September 16, while Chile's is on September 18 and Belize's is on September 21.¹

The first federal celebration of Hispanic heritage took place for a week in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. It was expanded into the month-long observance we have now under President Ronald Reagan in 1988, with President George H. W. Bush becoming the first president to declare the 31-day period from September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month a year later in 1989.² 

Over the last decade, Hispanics and Latinos have played a major role in driving U.S. population growth, making up one-fifth of the United States as of 2021. The month-long observation allows for our nation to celebrate the achievements and culture of the many different individuals who identify as Hispanic and/or Latino, including over 15% of the Air Force's Active Duty personnel.³

Local Spotlights

Each Friday during the month, we'll be highlighting members who are a part of our very own RAF Lakenheath community! Keep an eye out on our social media - and add this page your bookmarks - for the next individual's story!

SrA Aaron Puga & Sandra Leticia Puga

Cultural Background:
Aaron was born in Louisville, KY USA. Parents born in Monterrey Nuevo Leon, Mexico Sandra was born in Matehuala San Luis Potosi, Mexico Aaron Joined the USAF in 2019, married Sandra in Matehuala in Dec 2021.

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known or practiced:
"Mexican culture more than food and music, as a society the Mexican culture is more about creating a personal tradition and maintaining a strong family connection. Rather that is playing so kind of sports or cooking platters together, in some shape or form the culture is about being with each other in the moments rather good or bad."

Favorite memory?
"Hosting Latin Fest and visually seeing the impact of our community. By either feeding people food, having kids play games, and connecting people and opening up lines of communication to other people." 

TSgt Manuel A Gonzalez

Cultural Background
Born in Hollywood, Florida. My father was Domingo Gonzalez, born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. My Mother is Mirna Vara, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced.
Ecuadorians practice something called "Anos Viejos". Anos Viejos are life=sized dummies made from old clothes, paper, and other materials. These dummies are created to represent the negative events, energies, or aspects of the past year. At midnight, for New Years, these dummies are set on fire, symbolizing the act of letting go of the old and welcoming the new. It's a way for people to metaphorically rid themselves o fthe past years challenges and start fresh in the coming year.

How have you incorporated your culture into your time overseas at this base?
Because of my culture background, I decided to join the Hispanic Organization of Latin Americas to surround myself with more people who share similar customs. When I travel around England, I always look up Spanish themed restaurants to see what I can order to feel like I'm home.

Anything you would like to have shared. This could be a story, an event you'd like to be shared, a food recipe, a fun fact about yourself, etc.
Fun Fact: My father's parents moved to Puerto Rico from Spain. I've submitted my DNA to Ancestry and the majority of my DNA is 23% Spaniard, 20% indigenous Ecuadorian, and 17% Portuguese. 

SSgt Reyna Bonita Velasco

Cultural Background
I am the first generation, both parents are Mexican (mom born in Guadalajara, JA, and father in Calvillo, AG) and I was born in Oklahoma City, OK. However, I was raised from ages 7 – 18 in Chihuahua, MX, so I had the opportunity to learn the language first-hand, experience school and enjoy the culture from a different standpoint. In 2015, my family and I returned to the US, and in 2017, I joined the Air Force.

Tell us about something from your culture that you wish was more widely known/practiced.
Besides how to make the great food that most people I know love, something I wish that was more known/practiced are folkloric dances. It's something that celebrates the people, culture, and history, all while having fun. I was lucky that the first year I was stationed here, there was a dance teacher that taught many styles, including folkloric. The time and effort that is put in just learning these dances can be tiring but at the end, it is satisfying and a great way to meet new people.

How have you incorporated your culture into your time overseas at this base.
While being stationed at RAF Lakenheath, I was part of the Hispanic Organization of Latin Americans before it was a private org. in 2021, and I help in the process of it becoming official in 2022 and am currently the President. We organize many different events from game nights, food fundraisers, to panels and sport events. While doing these activities, the main goilg is to bring the community together regardless of backgrounds, a home away from home.

Also, for about a year, I was part of a folkloric dance group that performed at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall.

Anything you would like to have shared. This could be a story, an event you'd like to be shared, a food recipe, a fun fact about yourself, etc.
Something that always makes me smile is when I meet new people, and see how they light up when they find out about HOLA. They get excited for future events, advise us with new ideas, and have the feeling of being part of something that they can relate to. 

Check back on October 6!

Check back on October 13!

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Check back on October 15!

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  1. Hispanic Heritage Month. (n.d.). National Today. 
  2. Editors, H. com. (n.d.). Hispanic Heritage Month. HISTORY. 
  3. DAF Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The HEAT is on. (2021, September 17). Air Force.
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Wednesday, October 04, 2023

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