MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY Ga. -- Mariachi music and the fragrant spices of Hispanic foods greeted Marines and civilians as they entered the Base Restaurant for the 14th Annual Hispanic Heritage Luncheon Sept. 26.
The theme for the 2000 Hispanic Heritage Month is Children Our hope for the future, was emphasized at the luncheon. Joe Ybarbo, the Maintenance Center Armored Amphibious Vehicle program manager, was the guest speaker. The San Antonio native talked about his experiences and his hopes for childrens future.
Ybarbo, began the luncheon by discussing the achievements of Hispanic Americans in the nations history and providing factual information. Since the Civil War, 37 Hispanic service members have been awarded the Medal of Honor and many have received numerous other awards for bravery and valor. He also discussed Hispanic pride, traditions, the growing Hispanic population in the United States, and the need for programs to better educate Hispanics.
The purpose of the Hispanic Heritage Luncheon is to promote the message of the Hispanic Employment Program here on base, said Gunnery Sgt. Yvette Harris, Marine Corps Logistics Bases equal opportunity advisor and native of Philadelphia. The luncheon and program are designed to educate people about what Hispanic Americans have to offer society and employers.
This years theme ... hits very close to home, said Ybarbo. While researching information for this speech, I found out that 28 percent of Hispanic Americans have a ninth grade education or less. That disturbs me.
Education was very important to my father, and it is to me too, said Ybarbo. I have five children and nine grandchildren. I hear that statistic and think of them. The lack of education among my people needs to be corrected. Twenty-eight percent of Hispanic Americans without even a high school equivalency is too many.
Ybarbo said the theme on education was appropriate because it brings the issue to the forefront.
According to Ybarbo, education and caring are the keys to success for everyone, and Hispanic Americans need to be educated while still embracing their heritage.
Ybarbo also talked about his schooling in San Antonio. He told the audience that when he and his friends spoke Spanish in class or in the hallways, teachers struck them with rulers and told them to speak English.
Ybarbo said that when he told his father about it, he was reminded that he was no longer in Mexico and told to obey his teachers.
I did, said Ybarbo, but looking back, I dont agree with it. Through proper guidance from parents and teachers, Hispanic youths in school today can take advantage of the many opportunities presented to them as Americans, while still not forgetting their Hispanic heritage.
Ybarbo believes that only through education and guidance can Hispanic Americans continue to advance and to break down social and economic barriers. He told the audience how he was treated when he first came to Georgia.
My family and I got a lot of sideways glances, and people kept me at arms length, said Ybarbo. Then I started talking to people. As they realized I was not an outsider, we got to know the people in the community better, and we were accepted.
The Hispanic population in the community has grown since then, said Ybarbo. I referee soccer, and there are a lot of Hispanics who play in the soccer league. When I say hello to them in Spanish, I see their eyes light up. For many Hispanics, English is difficult to master.
Ybarbo believes children learn bigotry or racial animosity from their parents and other adults.
Children just want to get along and have fun, said Ybarbo. As parents, teachers and adults, we need to nurture them and teach them to put aside prejudices. Education must embrace different cultures and beliefs, not hamper personal growth.
We must do everything we can to provide what is best for children all children, not just Hispanics or any other single ethnic group. Children are our future.
They are the ones who will carry on when our time is over, and they are the leaders who will take the helm for the next generation. We owe them every opportunity we can afford them. What we teach them will impact not only them, but the generations which will come after them, he said.
Col. Charles V. Mugno, MCLB Albany commanding officer, concluded the luncheon. Education is the key, said Mugno. Only through education can we overcome differences and embrace the diversity our great nation was built on.