The Naval Academy held a kickoff ceremony for Hispanic Heritage Month in Smoke Hall Sept. 15.
Coordinated by the Naval Academy's Diversity Department and the Latin American Studies Club, the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans, their heritage and culture in the United States and its Navy.
"It is important for all midshipmen, especially those of Latin descent to understand and know what part our heritage played in American and naval history," said Midshipman 1st Class Manuel De La Cruz.
Approximately 510 midshipmen, which is 11 percent of the midshipmen population, identify with Latin descent.
"This year we had Mrs. Yolanda Maria Martinez, Chair for the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs as our featured guest speaker," said Cruz. "She was our guest speaker last year for our banquet, and I thought having her back would be great for the plebes to hear her story and that of her family."
"Hispanics take tremendous pride in their record of military service, holding great honor to their status as members of the naval service - active, reserve, civilian and veterans - to advance equal treatment and integration of Hispanics within U.S. society," said Martinez.
Maritnez remarked how her father inspired her and how he was proud to serve in the Navy.
"I learned the meaning of service through him and witnessed the pride he exuded when he spoke of his military family," said Martinez. "Through his service he was given the opportunity to better himself in many ways."
After her remarks, Martinez presented the 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation from Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to Capt. William Byrne, commandant of midshipmen.
Observation of Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15.
The start date for National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries on Sept. 15: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.