MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The tropical, melodic sound of the Trinidadian steel drums and the scent of spiced cuisine set the theme at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
Both of the pavilion’s ballrooms were filled with sights, smells, sounds and tastes from all over the world as members of the MCB Camp Lejeune community gathered to celebrate each other’s backgrounds and traditions through Multi-Cultural Heritage Day Oct. 25.
Multi-Cultural Heritage Day is an annual event where the base celebrates the diversity of the Marine Corps.
Participants were able to taste treats from all over, such as Puerto Rican rice and pigeon peas, Hawaiian shaved ice, and other staples of various cultures.
Dancers provided a visual treat with lively swirls and quick steps set to the beats and rhythms of their cultural homes. They wore fun and traditional garb, and dancers varied in age. Young women and children graced the stage displaying steps from Polynesian dance, as well as dances from Costa Rica and other world-wide locations.
“I wanted to perform to show some of my culture,” said Daniella Lopez, a dancer with six years of experience dancing to Latin music. “I hope people learned a little bit of my culture and Costa Rica. I chose three different rhythms we dance to in Costa Rica: the soca, Costa Rican cumbia and salsa. Salsa is a rhythm that has impacted all Latin countries.”
The event brought hints of home for some and shared the rest of the world with all present.
“Even though we are in Camp Lejeune, we still have people who bring other culture to us,” said Pfc. Maria Bermeo Garcia. “They bring the (regions and cultures) to you through the (different life experiences that converge) in the Marine Corps. You just have to get around, ask questions and take advantage of events like this.”
Bermeo Garcia said events like this can make people aware of the nuances between different cultures. “People usually lump a lot of cultures together,” she said. “For example I’m Hispanic, and a lot of people think Hispanics are just Mexican. When you meet people from the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica you can see the differences in their culture. It makes you aware whether someone is Asian, Hispanic or American. There are many different and unique cultures within those groups.”
Kimberly Berthold, who hails from New Jersey, danced cumbia, soca and salsa on a stage alongside Lopez. She did not know a single dance at all before a few months ago and now knows them well enough to perform them with an expert.
“It’s important that everybody takes the time to learn about different cultures so they don’t prejudge them based on stereotypes,” said Sylvia Avens, a retired sailor who participated in the event. “It’s good to learn about them so you can respect and honor people’s cultures.”
Displays throughout Marston Pavillion provided the opportunity to gain information about different cultures and featured items showcasing a hint of each region.
“People learned from this event,” said Bermeo Garcia. “Whether it was by watching people dance, or interacting with them, even looking at pictures and sharing the same environment taught us a lot.”