Celebrating the Asian Pacific culture

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***Growing up in Guam, Erika Camacho learned the traditional Chamorro dance from her uncle, a dance master. Chamorro dance tells stories about the past.

As a girl, Mrs. Camacho never imagined that she would leave the island.
Today, all these years later, she is married with children and is in a military family on the move.

She wants to tell her story − the story of her youth, her culture. So, she dances.

“It’s like speaking a language,” Mrs. Camacho said.

This month is National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, set aside first in 1978 as a two-week celebration and then expanded in 1990 to a month, to celebrate and learn about Asian Pacific culture, history and the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans. May was the month the first Japanese immigrant came to the United States in 1843 and the month of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, where the majority of workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

At Ramstein, a month of activities began this week with a luncheon which featured the Friendship of the Islands dance performance, a martial arts demonstration and the children of the Fil-Am of the KMC dance group, who wowed the crowd with the “Tinikling,” national Filipino dance.

“Personally, I think it’s a great opportunity to educate folks on our culture, values and beliefs,” said Capt. Jaylene Sanchez, 3rd Air Force and chair of the Asian Pacific American Heritage committee. “I am thrilled to be a part of this.”
Planned events this month include readings at the libraries, dance performances, and Oriental lunches.

 “I would like to encourage the general public to get involved and seek out those opportunities to learn about other cultures,” Captain Sanchez said.
Col. Rudolph Cachuela, 435th Medical Group deputy commander, and guest speaker at Tuesday’s luncheon, highlighted the accomplishments of many Asian Pacific Americans in the U.S. military.

One, however, influenced him more than any: his father, who served 30 years in the U.S. Navy, was wounded in the attack at Pearl Harbor and served in the White House as the chief steward for presidents Roosevelt and Truman.

 “He is still alive today at the ripe old age of 101,” Colonel Cachuela said. “He serves as my inspiration to achieve excellence in all my endeavors.”

Recognizing the past helps build the future, he said. He offered these facts:
• In 1940, persons of Asian heritage were only 1.9 percent of the U.S. population, or about 250,000 out of 132 million people.

• Today, there are nearly 14 million Asian Pacific Americans which represent about 4.4 percent of our nation’s population.
• There are more than 1.1 million Asian Pacific American owned businesses employing more than 2.2 million people and earning more than $326 billion in business revenue.  
• In the United States military, there are more than 6,000 officers, 300 warrant officers and 46,000 enlisted personnel of Asian and Pacific Island heritage. This comprises 4.7 percent of all personnel on active duty and 3.4 percent of all those in the Guard and Reserve.
• Asian Pacific Americans make up 5.9 percent of the Department of Defense’s civilian work force.

“It is of significance to note that the number of Asian-Pacific Americans on active duty grew by 47.5 percent over the last 10 years, with an 80-percent gain in the commissioned officer ranks,” Colonel Cachuela said. “Furthermore, there are over 300,000 Asian Pacific American veterans who served our country honorably.”

Those involved in the Asian Pacific American Heritage month activities said they just want to share a little bit about themselves, and where they come from with their community.

And like Mrs. Camacho, they will dance.

“Whatever your ethnic background or cultural make-up is, celebrate it, educate others about it, and relish in the fact that you live in a country where you can do so without persecution or prejudice, where you are judged by your accomplishments,” Colonel Cachuela said. “Be a leader, and be proud to be an American.”

Upcoming events

May 9: Oriental lunch, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  at the Rheinland Inn Dining Facility
May 10: Vietnam and Korea library reading, 9:30 to
11 a.m. Ramstein Library
May 11: Hawaiian group performance, 6 p.m. Ramstein Youth Center
May 15: Aniten Taotao Tano performance, 11 a.m. Daenner Kaserne

Read about more upcoming APAH month events in next week’s KA.