Reflections on Hispanic Heritage Month
Sandra Casinelli, Marketing Program Leader
I’m one of more than 60 million Hispanic and Latinx Americans in the United States. We come from more than 30 countries, and while we share similar roots and beliefs, our communities have richly diverse histories and traditions.
I’m a first-generation Argentinian-American who keeps in close contact with my extended family in Argentina. Growing up in Miami, I was influenced by my parents’ Argentinian culture and traditions and those of my friends, neighbors, and adopted family members from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries.
Holidays were a time when traditions crossed over and blended. Thanksgiving meals included not only turkey, sweet potatoes, and apple pie but also rice and beans, yucca, and flan. Christmas dinners featured lechon (roasted pig), matambre (rolled and stuffed beef or pork), chimichurri (a classic Argentinian sauce), ensalda rusa (potato salad), rice and beans, and my favorite, flan.
Celebrations and food bring us together, but it wasn’t just the tangible traditions that influenced me. Equally important were the nontangible ideals of family and community importance and the belief that a strong work ethic, a good education, and dedication will lead to success and better things in life — because when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.
Like many others, my parents came to this country seeking a better life, one that offered more opportunities than were available to them in their own. Learning a new language and acclimating to a new country weren’t easy, but they were determined to succeed and persevered through all the obstacles with hard work and a commitment to family and community.
I was fortunate to grow up in such a strong, inclusive Hispanic community, among a diverse group of people who had similar experiences and supported each other’s efforts toward success. There were many people from our community who helped us when we were struggling, and we in turn did the same.
These are the ideals and experiences that have molded me into who I am today: an individual who understands that success is rooted in a strong work ethic and who has an equally strong sense of the need for a community where individuals support and care for one another.
I’m proud of my roots and the ethics I learned from my parents and the greater Hispanic community. The same background has produced great leaders such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Nobel Prize- and Presidential Medal of Freedom-winner Mario Molina, and astronaut Ellen Ochoa, winner of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal.
Coming together as a nation to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to honor our connections as Hispanics and celebrate the history and diversity of our cultures, heritage, and personal stories with people of other backgrounds. And by sharing our stories and cultures, we find those commonalities that bring us together as one community for a better future — one that thrives on diversity and inclusivity.
You can help create that future. Start by participating in a celebration. Check your city, town, or Chamber of Commerce website to see what activities are being held, or join an employee resource group. You also can join online events hosted by the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and others.