Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by commemorating, and honoring the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to the
U.S. Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense and the nation. The contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Portugal, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander, Col. James Booth and employees attending the ceremony in person and virtually via WebEx celebrated Hispanic Americans with a luncheon and presentation by guest speaker Alejandra Amegin, founder of the Jacksonville Natural Healing, VIVE Yoga Studio Oct. 3, 2023.
Booth said observances like this provides the opportunity to recognize and appreciate the contributions in each one of our Hispanic or Latino soldiers, Army civilians and family members.
"It helps us focus on the core Army values we want to deliver every day, which is loyalty, duty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage," said Booth. "These all continue to serve as a guide to help us understand and celebrate diversity that provides us a common unity."
In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month recognizing the important presence of Hispanic and Latino-Americans in the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEO) invited Amegin to the District presenting on this year’s theme, “Todos Somos, Somos Uno: We Are All, We Are One, ” followed by a luncheon of various mexican and latin dishes.
Amegin shared how her family immigrated from Mexico to California when she was just five years old. They came for a better life but building that wasn't easy. She felt like an outcast, a secret, in her new home.
"It remains a secret because you have nobody to go to and say, 'Hey, I'm experiencing this, I need help.' But nobody can know you're here illegally. You can't ever go and talk about what is happening within your family," said Amegin.
Despite the trauma and challenges of her childhood, Amegin joined the Navy, eventually moving to Jacksonville. After leaving the service, she opened her own business, Jacksonville Natural Healing and Vive Yoga Studio, to help others in Jacksonville heal in the way that she has.
Amegin's life story is one of 40 Jacksonville residents whose story of struggle and triumph has been encapsulated at the Jacksonville Historical Society as part of a project that began in 2021. The project, led by a local Jacksonville historian, collected audio recordings of life stories from Hispanics in Northeast Florida to highlight their historical, cultural, and economic contributions spanning the last 100 years in the region.
Booth said, just as in generations past, this month we continue to honor our Hispanic community—military and civilian—for significantly contributing toward protecting the United States and embodying U.S. Army Corps of Engineer values that unite us as one team.
“Thank you for being here and sharing your story with us," said Booth to Amegin. "The Jacksonville District works hard to make sure we're optimizing each and every individual in this district and It’s our duty to participate in events that will help educate us to better understand diversity," He added.
Amegin is Alumna of Syracuse University, a U.S. Navy veteran, U.S., a RYT-500 certified yoga instructor, entrepreneur, and wellness advocate. She is the founder of Culturus Consulting Firm, Jax Natural Healing, Vive Yoga Studio, and an ambassador for lululemon. Her transformative journey from a trauma survivor to a beacon of empowerment has shaped her mission to foster healing for individuals overcoming cultural and generational trauma. Driven by her roles as a veteran, immigrant, mother, and survivor, Amegin has crafted spaces like Jax Natural Healing and Vive Yoga Studio that prioritize authenticity, growth, and inclusivity. These ventures stand as testaments to her commitment to creating safe environments where healing is embraced as a deeply personal journey.
"As a child attempting to fit in, I shortened my name to 'Allie' to sound more American," said Amegin. "But as I matured, I realized I don't have to assimilate. We all have value and deserve to be recognized for our individuality," she added.
USACE celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success. The observation began 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. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.
The observance begins on September 15th to recognize the anniversary of independence from Spain for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The celebration also encompasses the declaration of independence by Mexico on September 16th, by Chile on September 18th, and by Belize on September 21st. It culminates with Columbus Day (Día de la Raza) on October 12th.
"We all have a story to tell," said Booth. "The Army embraces diversity and inclusivity and in the Jacksonville District, we strive to tell those stories and celebrate our differences with monthly observances and throughout the year."
The U.S. Army recognizes the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. America’s diversity is a source of strength, and Hispanic Americans have not hesitated to defend and show their allegiance to this nation in many ways, but especially through their military service. Originally a week-long celebration approved by President Johnson, National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15– October 15) was enacted into law in 1988.
The celebration heightens our attention to diversity and the many contributions Hispanics have made to enrich the United States. The observance commences on September 15 to coincide with the day several Latin American countries celebrate their Independence Day. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua celebrate their Independence Day on September 15, Mexico on September 16 (not on May 5 or “Cinco de Mayo”), and Chile on September 18. Columbus Day, “Día de la Raza”, is also celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month.
For years, the Army has forged relationships with Hispanic associations, and will continue to support and sponsor professional development forums. Through these relationships, the Army further increases awareness among key Hispanic audiences of the educational and career opportunities available in the Army.
"There's beauty in diversity and I encourage all to appreciate learning new things and acknowledging the harmony in our different cultures,” said Amegin.
Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their communities. More than 57.5 million people—18 percent of the American population—are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This makes Hispanic and Latino-Americans the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority.
"Alejandra delivered a dynamic message that was both inspiring and educational," said Donna M. Martin, Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist and coordinator for the event. "It all made for a fine session of learning and appreciation for the Hispanic culture."
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District on the district’s website at https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JaxStrong.
Davinna Fuller-Bender, from the Jacksonville Corporate Communications office contributed to this news story.