The event, attended by Buccaneers players, cheerleaders and staff, aimed to engage local youths with fun, healthy activities that celebrated the region’s strong Hispanic roots. The fiesta was part of an NFL-wide salute to Hispanic Heritage that takes place annually from September 15 – October 15.
Led by linebacker Jonathan Casillas, participants included safety
“It’s good to come out and do events like this, being Hispanic myself,” said Casillas, who is half-Puerto Rican. “It touches home. We got great energy and a great response from these kids, and they’re very attentive and they participated very well today, so it was a great event.”
The students, who ranged from ages five to 12, gathered in the school’s cafeteria to enjoy salsa dancing lessons led by the cheerleaders with help from Martin and Watson; a cooking station with healthy Hispanic recipes from Beadles; Hispanic cultural music instructions with drum beats provided by Goldson; and some football drills led by Casillas and Tandy.
“It’s something special, something they always watch on TV,” said Marcos Murillo, Webb's principal. “A lot of these players are their heroes. Coming in to see them in reality, to see how big and strong they are, to see the entire positive messages they are providing for the kids in Hispanic Heritage Month [is great].”
The students at Webb were joined by a group of younger children from the nearby Town ‘N Country Boys and Girls Club. In total, a predominantly-Hispanic group of more than 100 youths participated in the day’s festivities.
“This is going to be something these kids will never, ever forget,” said Ricky Gallon, director of community relations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. “To have professional athletes, cheerleaders, Captain Fear and [the Buccaneers] here for them, all to themselves to participate in Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s just awesome,’
According to Gallon, the organization has six to seven clubs throughout the Bay Area that are considered predominately Hispanic.
Principal Murillo, whose student population is 65 percent Hispanic, echoed the importance of the NFL’s support for Hispanic Heritage Month.
“It’s an appreciation for the Hispanic culture,” said Murillo. “It’s largely here in Tampa and around this Town ‘N Country area. Of course we’re close to Raymond James Stadium, it’s an honor just to have [the Buccaneers]. The culture is growing and everyone has to buy into and understand that it’s not only Puerto Rican or Mexican, it’s an entire culture that they need to mix and be together in everything.”
The Buccaneers, along with all NFL teams, will enhance the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with local efforts throughout the month, including designated home games in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and local community outreach. The Buccaneers will continue the celebration at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday, when the team hosts the Arizona Cardinals. Fans will be treated to special themed events and activities designed to celebrate the region's strong Hispanic roots.“This is a new team for me; this is one of my first times being out here in the community,” added Casillas. “And giving back – this is something I love to do.”