NEW YORK -- The thick, mouth-watering promise of pastelillos trickles into the long room. The smooth notes of Spanish guitars dance about the room, lead by the edgy staccato beat of a guiro and a pair of maracas. The atmosphere is something like San Juan - but instead, it's New York City.
The New York Police Department Hispanic Society celebrated the start of Hispanic Heritage Month at the NYPD Museum in Manhattan yesterday.
A Marine Corps color guard from 6th Communication Battalion in Brooklyn, New York, opened the festive event. Sgt. Lenny Cruz took part in the color guard.
"The society members saw that the Marine Corps recognizes other cultures," Cruz said loudly over the sounds of a nearby Mariachi band. "An event like this leaves a positive impression of the Corps."
He also said it felt natural that Marines should take part in the celebration.
"It's important for the Marine Corps, because there are so many Hispanic Marines," Cruz said. Cruz, of Puerto Rican and Dominican Republican background, also said he was surprised to meet so many former Marines at the event.
According to last year's Department of Defense distribution data, Hispanics make up 14.2 percent of enlisted Marines and 5.7 percent of officers.
Sgt. Kelvin Valdez, Color Guard member, said he enjoyed meeting so many of the society members. "They all seemed so professional," he added.
"It's great to see so many Hispanics succeeding in law enforcement," said Valdez. "It helps to know that Hispanic Marines continue to serve the community through the police department. This way, we know the right values are passed on through generations," said Valdez.
Hispanic Heritage Month started Monday, and it ends October 15th. If other events continue with spirit similar to yesterday's celebrations, the month promises cultural celebration and enlightenment with spicy intensity.