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EDITORIAL — Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

When mid-September arrives, many Americans pay homage to the very influential and ever-growing Hispanic population.

It is a time of food, festivals and fanfare.

Port Arthur is no different.

Our community’s convention and visitors bureau has been out front in promoting The Mexican Heritage Society’s Fiesta next weekend on Sept. 14.

“For five decades, this event has highlighted the culture, food and music in an annual celebration,” community leaders stress.

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

Tourism leaders say this is the best time to visit Our Lady of Guadalupe and Shrine, noting parishioners traveled to Mexico to obtain rocks where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Juan Diego.

Things really get started between 9:30 a.m. and midnight Sept. 14 at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center.

Mayor Thurman “Bill” Bartie will kick off the event with a 10 a.m. welcome and a presentation of the Colors will follow. Events include the Children’s Costume Contest, showcasing young children modeling traditional Mexican costumes; pageants and crowning of five queens, a Petite Miss and Young Miss, and a Mr. Jovencito King.

The Society’s own Folklorico Dancers will perform in vibrant and colorful Mexican costumes, demonstrating traditional dances from various states and regions of Mexico.

Evening entertainment will feature a Promenade of all Fiesta Royalty, DJ music and the musical sounds of the “Reyes Locos & San Marcos.”

Admission fees for the entire event are $5 for ages 11 to 17, $5 for seniors, $10 for adults and free for children 10 and younger when accompanied by an adult. For information, call 549-0088.

Much of our community’s growing Hispanic and Latino influence has been aided by hard-working entrepreneurs and the developing Hispanic Business Council.

Raquel Ochoa, communications and event coordinator for Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, leads the Hispanic Business Council.

The council brings local businesses to the forefront and hosts important events such as the upcoming, “Way to Success.”

Ochoa noted many in the Hispanic community do not vote, and that is something local leaders are trying to change.

“It’s either they can’t or they just don’t,” she told The Port Arthur News this week. “We are going to try to really push that. The group at the census already has a committee ready and we are trying to help out in any way possible.”

Ochoa said she loves September because the fiestas and other outreach efforts provide an opportunity to show her children and the people she works with a lot more about her culture.

“It feels good to see people trying to keep their culture alive and helping our kids get to know a little bit more about their roots,” she said.

The dates of Hispanic Heritage Month are significant because it includes the anniversaries of independence for various Latin American countries. Sept. 15 marks when Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua achieved independence.

The first official Hispanic heritage commemoration was observed in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. It was expanded in 1988 under then-president Ronald Regan to encompass a full month. Enacted into law on August 17, 1988, National Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated ever since.

Start your celebration right here in Port Arthur.