Honoring Hispanic Heritage


“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion.” – Max de Pree, American businessman and writer.

The U.S. began Hispanic Heritage month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans, and celebrate the group’s heritage and culture. But how much of that culture do we really know?

Cecilia Diaz, 17th Medical Group Family Advocacy outreach manager, shares her culture to help others appreciate the beauty of her heritage.

As a child, Cecilia heard many stories from her father. Most of them were used to scare children but one stood out to her, the story of her grandfather’s involvement in the Mexican Revolution.

On July 20, 1923, a group of assassins killed Pancho Villa, a general in the Mexican Revolution and former bandit. Cecilia says that, because Pancho Villa murdered her great uncle, her grandfather joined the gang that planned his assassination.

According to latinamericanhistory.about.com, “Villa was a hero to some, a devil to others. During the revolution, he was responsible for thousands of deaths: some directly, some indirectly. He had a quick fuse and murdered many men in cold blood … dozens if not hundreds of fathers and brothers might have had a score to settle with Villa.”

While Cecilia did not believe her father at first, she still cherishes her father’s storytelling as a part of her culture among other childhood memories.

Even though Cecilia’s birthplace was El Paso, Texas, she spent much of her life in Juarez, Mexico, and her grandfather’s ranch in Durango. She spent her days outside with her brothers and sisters, along with the neighborhood children, playing Spanish dancing games and marbles. In the summer, some nights she would play outside until midnight and spend early mornings with her grandfather learning how to ride horses.

Cecilia said those were her fondest memories.

“I learned to ride horses at a very young age,” said Cecilia. “In order to get somewhere you had to ride a horse. So, you learned to ride a horse or a mule. There were no streets or lights, we had to do everything by lantern.”

Her family has many cultural values such as having a strong work ethic, taking care of friends and maintaining a strong family bond.

“We were taught that if somebody needs help, especially friends, we’re going to help them. It could be the next door neighbor. It could be a coworker. It could be anybody you know or someone that’s out there in the street. I think that’s why I became a social worker.”

Her father grew up needing a strong work ethic to survive hard labor and support his family. He taught Cecilia to do things perfectly the first time so she wouldn’t have to repeat the task.

Through maintaining a strong family bond, Cecilia maintains communication as much as possible. Cecilia said that celebrations like weddings; Quinceaneras, a female’s 15th birthday or passing into adulthood; and Posadas, Spanish Christmas celebrations, were important to her family.

Although many of the Hispanic celebrations are not celebrated near her home, Cecilia tries to encompass her heritage in art and dance. She teaches her children Loteria, a Hispanic card game much like Bingo, and celebrates Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, every year.

“I would like to tell people to embrace the beauty of cultural diversity as there is so much beauty in each and every one of us,” said Cecilia.