America is a melting pot of people from all over the world. Some groups came willingly to pursue new opportunities, such as the forefathers of the “new world”; whereas, some were brought against their will in the form of slaves, indentured servants or temporary workers. No matter how we all got here, we are a diverse and multicultural nation. Our country’s diversity plays a role in the quilt that blankets our land and makes us one. This month I am thankful for my Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters that play an instrumental role in both my personal and professional life. I salute you and your beautiful heritage.
I come from a very diverse background. I was raised primarily by my paternal grandmother, also known as Mother Dear. Our neighborhood was made up of both African Americans and Latinos (back then we said “Chicanos”). We all got along, played together, and the mothers and grandmothers helped each other with their children. Our next-door neighbor, and one of my grandmother’s dear friends, was Mrs. Martinez. There were many mornings that Mrs. Martinez would watch me and my brother and give us breakfast and get us off to school when my grandmother had to leave early. We also knew if my grandmother wasn’t home, we could always go to Mrs. Martinez’s house if we were hungry or just needed a place to stay. During many of the days I spent at Mrs. Martinez’s house I always felt welcomed and I loved her cooking. The music she played was different (mainly because I didn’t understand the language), but it was always very celebratory and made me want to dance.
I am also proud that I come from a very diversified family. One of my favorite cousins is Dr. Michael Flores. He is currently the Dean of Instruction at Klamath Community College in Oregon. Our mothers are twin sisters and through our familia relations, I have learned more about the Latin culture. My appreciation and love for the Hispanic culture stretches beyond just my exposure as a little girl and even with my family. Today, some of my dearest friends who have embraced me in their hearts and worlds include my amigo Larry Ortega, who has done great work in the world of technology and bridging the Hispanic community into mainstream understanding; my amiga Teresa Samaniego, who has such a heart for giving back to the community and extending the work she does for ABC7 throughout Southern California; and one of my newest amigas, Grace Sanchez-Hagen who brings light and joy to everyone that has the privilege of being in her presence. They, too, have played a role in shaping who I am and my outlook on the world.
So as we celebrate our Latino brothers and sisters in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s not forget the battles that are still being fought right here in our own country. We still face issues such as equal access to education, healthcare and immigration reform. Our country is also plagued with the venom of xenophobia, which oftentimes exists because we don’t take time to get to know one another and learn to love our neighbors. In the words of Antonio Tijerino, president & CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, “You are not lucky to be here. The world needs your perspective. They are lucky to have you.” Sí se puede!
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