Fitting into the multicultural institution of the Canadian Armed Forces
By Captain Rey Garcia-Salas, Adjutant, 33 Signal Regiment
The Latin American Heritage Team was launched in 2010 to raise awareness of Latin American issues, culture, and heritage within Department of National Defence (DND), and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) through presentations, and cultural activities.
Earlier this year, an important milestone was reached when a presentation on Latin America was delivered to military, and civilian personnel for the first time. The lecture, held during Latin American Awareness Week, was presided over by Capt Garcia-Salas and MCpl Garza-Risueño, and complemented by a slide presentation. Afterwards, questions from the audience were answered with the assistance of Capt Hoyos.
In contemporary terms, Latin America is defined as territories in the Americas where the Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, or French) prevail. Surprisingly, Quebec would be classified as part of Latin America. In the Canadian Armed Forces, there are 1,500 members who self-identify as Latin American.
Last year, Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin-American Heritage Month, was introduced by the Honourable Tobias Enverga Jr., to recognize the significant contributions of Latin American Canadians in the social, economic, and political fabric of Canada (Senator Enverga died before Parliament passed the bill that he had tabled). It is commemorated each October by Canadians from coast to coast as well as the Latin American Heritage Team. For this year’s event, the group submitted a proposal through the chain of command for a distinguished Latin American Canadian guest speaker series and a DND / CAF Latin American Canadian military history exhibition.
Past events organized by the team include their Latin American Christmas Dinner (2010-2013); gala dinner “Encuentro Internacional Latino” in 2014; the Latin American Street Parade, where the community had their first contact with the group in military uniforms (2015-2017); and last year’s Hispanic on the Hill and Hispanic Heritage Quebec.
The DND / CAF Latin American Heritage graphic (designed by Capt Garcia-Salas with the Team sentiments and ideas of Miguel Diaz, Spencer Davis, and Ligia Pineda) depicts a handshake between North and South America to denote unification between the two continents. This is to bring to mind the way in which Mayans greet each other by saying “In lak’ ech,”—“I am the other you”—with the corresponding response “Hala ken” meaning “You are the other me.” Circles, representing the six continents, surround a gear shown rotating clockwise and signifying learning from the past in order to provide a better future for succeeding generations. The team motto “Let’s all get up and help so no one stays behind,” is taken from Popol Vuh, “The Book of the People” which tells the story of creation according to the Quiche Maya.
The Latin American Heritage Team meets twice each month and is open to all; guests are welcome. For more information, contact Capt Garcia-Salas or Capt Hoyos.
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