During National Hispanic Heritage Month, the U.S. government celebrates the countless contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans to our culture and society. Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the United States today, and generations of Hispanic Americans have consistently helped make our country strong and prosperous. They contribute to our Nation beyond description. Hispanic Americans embody the best of our American values, including commitment to faith, family, and country. They serve in our military and protect us as members of law enforcement. In fact, Hispanic Americans make up half of our Border Patrol agents. The Hispanic-American community has left an indelible mark on our government, culture, and economy.
The Department of State celebrates America’s rich Hispanic history and culture with National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 – October 15. National Hispanic Heritage Month, with roots going back to 1968, celebrates the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this period. Columbus Day in Mexico (Día de la Raza) is on October 12.
During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the contributions and the important presence of Hispanic and Latin Americans in the U.S. and within the Department. In commemoration of the 2020, National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Department highlights biographies of outstanding Hispanic employees who support diplomatic efforts around the world.
Mayra Alicea-Torres, a proud native of Puerto Rico, is currently serving in CSTM/ERPM. Prior to this appointment, she fulfilled a detail for the White House Liaison’s Office. She served for five years in a variety of roles including work for ISN. In 2016, Mayra was named on the Huffington Post list of distinguished young Latinos: 40 Under 40.
Julie Alvarado-Ortiz is a WHA Front Office Executive Assistant, on detail to EPSC to serve as EA to the Summit Coordinator. Julie is a Civil Service Admin Specialist with a FS background and training. Julie has served as Consular Associate in Mexico, Professional Associate for DS/RSO in Panama, Exec Asst in DEA/Brazil, further expanding her work and experience mostly in Political Sections to include Brussels, Berlin, The Hague, and TDY’s to Davos & Antigua, Guatemala.
Michelle Angulo is a Colombian-American Foreign Service Officer who serves as the Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. She specializes in promoting cultural exchanges between the United States and Egypt through U.S. Embassy programming and initiatives. Michelle previously served as a consular officer in Shanghai, China where she conducted non-immigrant visa interviews and worked in the American Citizen Services Unit.
Maria Macarena Apud
Maria Macarena serves as WHA/EPSC’s Economic Officer covering investment for development, infrastructure, economic sanctions, and WHA countries’ economic relations with the PRC, Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Russia, and multilateral economic entities. She looks at trends, events, and policy issues and their impact on broader U.S. foreign policy objectives in the Western Hemisphere. Maria leads the Bureau’s coordination of the Growth in the Americas/America Crece initiative working closely with State’s Bureau of Energy Resources, among other relevant offices and bureaus, U.S. Embassies, and the U.S. interagency.
Gabriela Arias Villela
Gabriela Arias Villela serves as the Public Diplomacy Officer for the Nordic, Baltic, and Arctic. She joined the Foreign Service in 2013, served her first two tours in Santo Domingo and Shanghai as a consular officer, and most recently as the Desk Officer for Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and Malta. Prior to that, she worked in WHA’s Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs for two years. She received a master’s degree from Georgetown University in Latin American studies, and attended William & Mary for her undergraduate degree.
Stuart Arias is originally from Fort Worth, Texas. In 2018, he joined the Department of State as a Pathways Intern at the Vermont Passport Agency. Now, a Prevention Officer with the Office of Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Stuart is responsible for bilateral engagement with countries on measures to prevent international parental child abduction or retention. He has served as a Consular Affairs representative for the Coronavirus Repatriation Task Force helping bring home more than 100,000 Americans.
Ray Baroni is the Regional Security Officer at U.S. Embassy Oslo, where he serves as the security and law enforcement advisor to the U.S. Chief of Mission, supervises the Embassy’s security team, and liaises with Norway’s Police Security Service. Previously, Ray served at U.S. Embassy Bogotá, U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem, and twice at U.S. Embassy Baghdad. Born in Chile, Ray immigrated to the U.S. at the age of seven.
Michael G. Barrera
Michael Barrera currently serves as the Public Diplomacy Officer for Caribbean and Haitian Affairs. In this position he develops and coordinates public affairs strategies and press objectives for sixteen countries in the Caribbean region. Within the Foreign Service he has served in Mexico as a Political-Economic Officer, Philippines as a Consular Officer and Trinidad and Tobago as a Deputy Public Affairs Officer.
Moises Benhabib joined the Office of the Secretary of State, Executive Secretariat Staff “The Line” in 2016. The Line supports the overseas and domestic travel of the Secretary and overseas travel of the Deputy Secretary. His most recent advance was to the Dominican Republic for the Presidential Inauguration in August 2020. When not overseas, Benhabib is also a member of the executive editing team reviewing the full provision of paper to the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, and the White House.
Wilma Bodden-Raffucci is an Inspector for OIG’s Office of Inspections. She joined the Department as a Passport Specialist at the National Passport Center. She was then promoted as a Supervisor Passport Specialist at the Washington Passport Agency and later as a Program Analyst for the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs. She worked at the National Visa Center as a contractor Visa Processing Specialist, Fraud Analyst and Visa Processing Supervisor. Wilma is originally from Puerto Rico and has a MBA from the University of Turabo.
Nora S. Brito
Nora S. Brito joined the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in 2014. Nora joined Mexico City’s Economic section in July 2020. Previously, Nora was an Advisor to the Special Representative for Venezuela. Prior to this assignment, Nora served as a Political Officer at U.S. Embassy Caracas, Venezuela from April 2017- January 2019 and as a Consular Officer in U.S. Embassy Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from December 2014-December 2016.
Tina is a FSO starting a consular position at US Embassy Jerusalem in November 2020. She was a consular officer at US Embassy Kuwait for first tour. Before the FS, Tina was a DoD civilian at Defense Attache Office Bucharest and in Afghanistan. She has a BA in Political Science from Point Loma Nazarene University. Her background is Filipina and Mexican, and she speaks some Hebrew, Arabic, Romanian, and Tagalog.
Ambassador Carmen G. Cantor
U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia and a career member of the Senior Executive Service who has served as Executive Director for the Bureaus of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Counterterrorism. Her 30-year career includes positions at the Foreign Agricultural Service, Federal Maritime Commission and U.S. Postal Service. She earned an M.A. from the Interamerican University, a B.A. from the University of PR, Mayaguez, and a Certificate in International Migration from Georgetown University’s SCS.
Katherine Caro, a 15 year veteran of the Foreign Service, is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal. Previously, she served as the Department’s Portuguese language Spokesperson in the Bureau of Public Affairs. Overseas assignments include India, Brazil, and Mexico. Katherine is from Atlanta, and is proud of her Chilean roots. She graduated from Emory University, and speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
Ivan serves in the Office of Caribbean Affairs where he leads U.S. efforts under CBSI and USCRP. Before this he served for 7 years in INL’s Office of Western Hemisphere Programs, primarily working on the Caribbean. He has a BA in Legal Studies from UC Santa Cruz and a JD and MA in international affairs from American University. He was president of the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies from May 2017- May 2019.
Karen Castro is a Foreign Service Generalist currently working as 1CA’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA). She joined the Foreign Service in 2016 and served her first assignment in Guangzhou, China. She is looking forward to her onward consular assignment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Prior to joining the Department, she served as an Immigration Caseworker for a Congresswoman in Ohio where she worked with largely Somali refugees and immigrants from Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey.
Carlos Centeno was recently hired with the Department of State and is working as a Program Coordinator in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs-Youth Programs.
Mr. Centeno is a California native and grew up in a primarily Latino neighborhood. Carlos’s interests in the world around him grew when the world gathered in Los Angeles, CA, for the 1984 Olympic Games. At that time, Carlos’s wanted to know more about the people, culture, and the world outside of LA.
Jason R. Cubas
Mr. Cubas is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service currently serving as the Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. Prior to this, he was the Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State in Washington, DC. Previously he was the Supervisory General Services Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; Deputy Consul General at the U.S. Consulate-General in Basrah; and Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka. He also served in Washington, Managua, Seoul and Osaka-Kobe during his 21 years in the Service.
John Dillon is the Secretary of State’s Senior Video Producer. He accompanies the Secretary during his international travel, filming and producing videos for social media which include the a State Department’s foreign policy messaging. John is a second generation Mexican-American and first generation college graduate. He recently received his Masters in Media and Strategic Communication from the George Washington University.
Michael “Mike” Flores
Mike Flores is currently the Deputy Director of the State Department’s Canada Desk., Mike, a consular-coned officer, joined the U.S. Foreign Service September 10, 2001. He served overseas tours in Bogota, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Bangkok, and Mexico City. In Washington DC, Mike served as the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security and worked UN Security Council issues in the Office of UN Political Affairs.
Andrea Gastaldo is the Director of PM’s Office of State-Defense Integration (PM/SDI) which supports 80 Foreign Policy Advisors (POLADs) working in DOD. She oversees recruitment and placement of POLADs. Formerly a POLAD to ARMY NORTH, she was POLAD of the Year in 2018. She has also served in Belarus, New Zealand, Iraq, Kuwait, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia. Ms. Gastaldo is the recipient of two group Secretary Awards for Heroism, alongside individual and group SHAs/MHAs.
David Gutierrez joined the Foreign Service in 2016 and completed his first tour as a consular officer in Guadalajara, Mexico. His second tour was supposed to be in Caracas, Venezuela, but he was re-assigned to Washington after the countries severed diplomatic relations. David is currently assigned to the political section in Canberra, where his portfolio includes the Middle East, counterterrorism, law enforcement, and trafficking in persons.
Amy Rustan Haslett
Amy Rustan Haslett is J/TIP’s Bureau Planner. She is responsible for resource requests and reporting on performance. She joined the State Department in 2008 and worked previously at ECA and INL. Prior to joining State, she worked at George Washington University (GWU), was in the Peace Corps in Cabo Verde, and worked at NGOs in DC and in Ecuador serving at-risk youth. Amy holds a bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College and a master’s degree from GWU. Amy is Cuban American.
Ana Kolodzinski is a Division Chief in the Family Liaison Office (FLO). She joined FLO in late 2019 after serving as the Regional Global Employment Advisor (GEA) for five years. Before joining the Foreign Service family, Ana worked in public affairs and diversity & inclusion.
Ana’s Colombian heritage is a driving force in her public service career. She is a certified Leadership Coach. She holds M.A.s in Strategic Communications & International Relations from Seton Hall University and a B.S. in Political Science from Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo.
Megan Lysaght (she/hers) is an Academic Exchange Specialist in the Multi-Regional Programs Branch in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Ms. Lysaght manages the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD) program and is lead coordinator on Fulbright events, including pre-departure orientations, enrichment conferences, arrival and gateway activities, and other Fulbright events.
Olimar (Oli) Maisonet-Guzman
Olimar (Oli) Maisonet-Guzman is a first-tour economic officer from Puerto Rico. She currently serves as a Vice Consul at U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Oli helped repatriated over 600 American citizens from Hyderabad and supported the Consulate’s reporting goals on COVID-19, economic development, and technology. Oli’s next assignment is at U.S. Embassy in Paris. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Oli worked at the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Stanley Ricardo Márquez
Stanley Ricardo Márquez is a Pickering Fellow and a first tour officer at ConGen Shenyang. Most recently, he interned in the Econ Section at ConGen HCMC and in the Office of the Coordinator for Cuban Affairs at Main State. Stanley has previously worked at OAS and United Nations Secretariat, and is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. Born in Guayaquil, he grew up in Long Island after immigrating to the US at the age of six. He earned a BA from the George Washington University and a MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Pedro Jose Martin
Pedro Jose Martin is Deputy Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. He joined the Foreign Service in 2002 and has served overseas in Santo Domingo, Mexico City, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and for the U.S. Mission to Somalia. His domestic assignments include the Bureaus of International Information Programs, Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Near Eastern Affairs. He holds master’s degrees from Syracuse University and the National Defense University’s Eisenhower School.
Moises Mendoza is a Colombian-American Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Port au Prince, Haiti as a Political Officer. His first tour was in Matamoros, Mexico where he was a Consular Officer. Moises holds master’s degrees from the Hertie School of Governance and Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. He speaks French, German, Haitian Creole and Spanish and worked as a journalist before joining the Foreign Service.
Rocio Mercado-Garcia is an Adoption Country Officer for Near Eastern, South Central Asia, and East Asian countries in the Office of Children’s Issues, Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs. Rocio has proudly served in Embassy Mexico City, Embassy Bogota, and Embassy Paris as well as domestically in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of the Spokesperson and Bureau of International Organizations as a Multilateral Affairs Officer.
As a career diplomat, Abi has combat visa fraud, issued visas, and assisted Americans in crisis in her first posting in Dakar, Senegal. For her second posting, Abi worked closely with Egyptian government officials, investment and development bankers, and financial institutions in connection with reforms related to Egypt’s $12 billion IMF program, focusing on macroeconomic stability and reforms, financial flows, and entrepreneurship.
A San Antonio native, Greg Pardo is a political officer in the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs. He has worked in New Delhi, Kolkata, the Cuba Desk, and the India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh Desk. A Rangel Fellow, Greg speaks to students about careers in diplomacy and serves as president of HECFAA. Greg is listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 in law and policy, received multiple Meritorious Honor Awards and is a 2019 Latino National Security leader. Greg studied at St. Mary’s University and the University of Texas at Austin.
Manny Peralta is a Foreign Affairs Officer in INL’s Office of Western Hemisphere Programs, where he oversees assistance programs in Central America. Manny has also served in the Bureau of Energy Resources and the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions, in addition to assignments in Mexico City and Caracas. Prior to State, Manny taught English in Japan and worked in Silicon Valley. A Phoenix native of Mexican heritage, he has a B.A. from Arizona State and an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
Roberto Quiroz II
A Foreign Service Officer currently enrolled at the National War College, Mr. Quiroz has served since July 2002 in Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, the Republic of Korea, and Washington, D.C. Born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico and Los Angeles, he holds a B.A. in political science from California State University Northridge and speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese, Swahili, and some Indonesian. An Air Force veteran, he earned his commission from the ROTC program in 1994 and left the service as a captain in June 2002.
José currently serves as a Fraud Prevention Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. He is a political-coned officer. His first tour was in Panama City, Panama as a rotational Political and Consular Officer. In Panama he managed the human rights portfolio and adjudicated immigrant and non-immigrant visas. José joined the Foreign Service as a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a BA in International Studies from American University’s School of International Service. He proudly hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico
Catherine is the U.S. Consul General in Lahore, Pakistan working on strengthening people to people ties and expanding U.S. business opportunities. She has served multiple roles in the Department and USAID. She was a Diplomat in Residence responsible for recruiting the next generation of Foreign Service and Civil Service professionals. She has graduate degrees from Florida International University and Columbia University.
Isabel Romero works within the Office of Overseas Protective Operations within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security as a Security Program Officer. Isabel started her State Department career as an unpaid intern at the Foreign Service Institute. Isabel served on the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies Executive Board for the last two years, working on the recruitment, retention and promotion of Hispanics within the Department. She currently serves as the chair of the DSS Council for Diversity & Inclusion.
BJ Roper Jr.
BJ am a Procurement Analyst for the Contracting and Procurement division of Diplomatic Security (DS/EX/MGT/CAP). Of Afro-Latin/Caribbean decent via the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, he loves HECFAA and the opportunities they provide to not only Latinos but to all minority groups within the Department. It’s truly a privilege to serve with this group and I’m so grateful to be apart. Dios Bendiga!
Kristina Rosales Kostrukova
Kristina Rosales Kostrukova is currently the State Department’s Portuguese-Language Spokesperson and Deputy Director of the Media Hub of the Americas based in Miami, Florida.
She previously served at U.S. Embassies in Qatar, Brazil, and Cuba. Kristina holds a Master’s degree in Latin American Affairs and Public Health from Columbia University, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Latin American Affairs from the University of Miami.
Kristina speaks Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Aleksey Sanchez joined the U.S. State Department in 2012 as a Foreign Service Officer. He is currently serving as a political officer in Embassy Tegucigalpa covering internal politics, electoral reform, and extraditions. Aleksey previously served as staff assistant in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs and as economic/commercial affairs officer in Embassy Baku, supporting American companies. He served his first tour as a consular officer in Mexico City, adjudicating immigrant and non-immigrant visas.
Merlyn Schultz is a Foreign Service Officer currently at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. Previously, she served in the Operations Center, Costa Rica, Cameroon, and Mexico. She entered the department as a Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities intern and later as a Presidential Management Fellow. Merlyn, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Global Studies from California State University, Monterey Bay.
Eila currently serves in Bogota, Colombia as a General Services Officer, leading several teams responsible for managing the operations of a large embassy and supporting over 40 U.S. Agencies. She previously served as the Peru Program Officer in INL/WHP from 2016 to 2019. In this role she worked designing and monitoring law enforcement and justice sector programming in the Western Hemisphere. Eila has also served in Mexico City and in EAP/EX.
Demian Smith joined the Foreign Service in 2003 and has served in India, Serbia, Thailand, and New Zealand. In 2021, he will assume duties as DCM in Tirana, Albania. His DC assignments include Chief of Staff to Counselor Kristie Kenney, EAP Special Assistant, and the Policy Planning Staff. He previously worked at The Atlantic Council and has degrees from the College of William and Mary and the National Defense University. Demian is the proud son of Berta Llera, originally from Mexico.
Sandra, born and raised in Colombia, joined the Foreign Service in 2019 as a Regional English Language Officer in the Office of English Language Programs in ECA. She works promoting English Language programs, providing support to English teachers, administrators and governments overseas. She is currently posted in Washington, DC. Sandra has three Masters in Education from the University of Notre Dame, The George Washington University, and Marymount University. She obtained her B.A. in Education in Colombia.
Michelle Suarez Yamin
Michelle is a third-tour Public Diplomacy Officer, who joined the Foreign Service in 2014. Michelle currently serves as the Human Rights Officer on NEA/LEV’s Syria Desk. In this capacity, she liaises with the Syrian diaspora, international human rights organizations, and various UN mechanisms to promote accountability and justice for the victims of human rights abuses and atrocities in Syria. Prior to joining the Syria Desk, Michelle worked as an Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer at Embassy Kabul.
Edwin Valasquez serves as a foreign affairs officer in the Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers. Prior to joining the Department, he served in the US Army as an artilleryman and served a total of eleven years. Edwin holds a BA in international studies from the American University’s School of International Service. He is a native of a rural and diverse community in Indiantown, FL.
Orlando T. Velasquez
Orlando joined the Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, in September 2000 and is currently the Regional Director for Europe. Orlando completed a Joint Duty Assignment to the National Security Council, Counterterrorism Directorate prior to his current assignment, and has also served as the High Threat Program Deputy Director for Afghanistan, in addition to several overseas tours.