During National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 – October 15, the U.S. government celebrates the countless contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans, Latinos, Latinas, and Latinx-identifying people 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. The Hispanic-American community has left an indelible mark on our government, culture, and economy.
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 of State. In partnership with the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA) , the Department highlights biographies of outstanding Hispanic employees who support diplomatic efforts around the world. This year we are also celebrating 40 years since the founding of HECFAA and its mission to promote the recruitment, retention, and career advancement of Hispanic employees. To see videos of Hispanic employees discussing their experiences working for the Department, visit the HECFAA YouTube Channel .
Alexandra Aitken joined the Foreign Service in 2008 and is currently the Director of the Office of Allowances in the Bureau of Administration – Operations. Prior posts include Bahrain, Luxembourg, Hanoi, and Accra. Alexandra holds a Bachelor of Science in International Studies from Spring Hill College and a Master of Public Administration-Organizational Performance Assessment from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Marta Aparicio is a public diplomacy officer, who joined the U.S. Department of State in 2020. She currently serves as a Vice Consul at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. A Charles B. Rangel Fellow, Marta obtained a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and interned at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. She received a double Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Government from Georgetown University. Born in Guatemala, she immigrated to Rhode Island at the age of eleven.
Mery Arcila is a Public Diplomacy coned Foreign Service Officer who serves as Assistant Information Officer at U.S. Embassy New Delhi. Prior to arriving in India, she served as Vice-Consul in Santo Domingo. She joined the Foreign Service in September 2018 via the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship. Mery received a B.A. in diplomacy and international relations from Seton Hall University in 2013 and an M.A. in public administration from New York University in 2018. She was born and raised in Colombia and considers Miami her hometown.
Maria Macarena Apud is on temporary duty as the Regional China Officer in U.S. Embassy Lima. She is the extra-regional economic officer in WHA’s Economic Policy Office where she also previously served on the Summit of the Americas team and as Energy Officer. She started her State career on the Colombia desk. She was HECFAA’s Vice President for Civil Service from 2021-2022 and is a 2018 International Career Advancement Program Fellow. She holds an M.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University and speaks fluent Spanish and some French.
Oscar Alejandro Baez is a Political Advisor in the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. In Washington, he served in the White House as Special Assistant in the Office of the Vice President and in the Operations Center as a Watch Officer. Oscar served in Brazil, Shanghai, and on temporary assignment in Tunisia, Haiti, Angola, and Belgium. He was named Linguist of the Year for using foreign languages to advance national security priorities. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Boston, Oscar has a B.A. in Political Science from Amherst College and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University.
Jorge (George) Benavides serves as an economic desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ Office of Israeli and Palestinian Affairs. He previously served in Peru, South Africa, and FSI’s long-term Economic Course. A Pickering Fellow, he joined the Department in 2015 after earning an M.A. from American University and B.A. from the University of San Diego. He grew up in Orange County, California and has family roots in Mexico and Honduras.
Emmania Rodriguez Blum serves as Deputy Management Officer in INL Bogota. Previously she served at US Consulate Toronto as its General Services Officer. Prior tours include Guadalajara and Sofia. An alumna of the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, she received an MPA from Columbia University and a BA from Northeastern University in International Affairs. She is of Nicaraguan and Dominican ancestry.
Maria E. Brewer, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho, previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone. During her 26-year career, Ambassador Brewer has served as Deputy Chief of Mission of U.S. Embassy Nigeria, as well as postings in Islamabad, Colombo, Mumbai, Lagos, and Washington, DC. She earned a B.A. from Valparaiso University and M.S. from National Defense University. Her mother’s family hails from Mexico, by way of Texas.
Olga Cabello Henry is the Senior Health and Scientific Advisor in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA). She was the Deputy Special Coordinator of the Department’s Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit, and the ESTH Advisor in WHA since 2013. Olga grew up in Mexico City and is a native Spanish speaker. Prior to joining the Department Olga obtained a BS, a MS, and PhD, and led an academic biomedical research program. She has two adult daughters and lives with her husband in Maryland.
Karen Castro is a Foreign Service Generalist currently working as a Consular Manager in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She joined the Foreign Service in 2016 and served her first assignment in Guangzhou, China followed by a tour in Washington as 1CA’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Karen holds a Master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University and a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Otterbein University. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and intermediate Mandarin.
Gabriel Cortez joined the Foreign Service in 2021. He currently serves as a Political Officer in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he works on human rights and refugee issues. Gabriel was born and raised in California. He earned a B.S. from Northern Arizona University and an M.A. from The LBJ School at The University of Texas Austin. Before joining the Department, Gabriel had previous government experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Ukraine and at the U.S. Helsinki Commission and Department of Health and Human Services.
John Dockery is currently the Minister Counselor for Management Affairs in Pakistan. John is a native of Bryan/College Station, Texas, and graduated from Texas A&M in 1985. He joined the Department in 1998, following his wife, Rebecca Dockery, and his mother, Irene Buentello. John is a member of a large Hispanic family, many of whom worked in public service over the last 50 years and volunteered with organizations like LULAC and the Hispanic Forum of Bryan/College Station.
Adah Ellenport is a Staff Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary, A Bureau. She started her career as Civil Servant in GTM/FO. She serves as a Scholarship Chair in AAFSW. She earned a B.A and studied a Master’s in Education in Mexico. She served as an EFM in China, Cambodia, and Bahrain and domestic assignments. Before joining the Department as an EFM, Adah taught Middle East History in Mexico. She is a native Spanish speaker, studied Hebrew, Chinese and Arabic. She is passionate about flamenco and photography.
Karina G. Garcia joined the Bureau of Intelligence and Research as an Analyst on the EU in August 2021. Previously she was the Ecuador Desk Officer, helping to rebuild the U.S.- Ecuador bilateral partnership. While in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Karina was selected for the first cohort of the Next Gen Fellows, a midlevel leadership program. Karina covered Brexit, the Eastern Partnership, and EU-Russia relations in EUR/ERA. She has served at Embassies Dublin and Bogota. Karina earned a MIA from SIPA at Columbia University and a BA from UCLA.
Leslie Núñez Goodman recently celebrated 16 years in the U.S. Foreign Service. She is currently the Country Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Mission New Zealand, including the Cook Islands and Niue, and the U.S. Embassy Samoa. Her past diplomatic postings include Venezuela, Republic of Georgia, Pakistan, Peru, and Latvia. Most recently she was the West Unit Chief for the Public Diplomacy Office of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs in Washington, D.C.
Natalie Guerrero joined the Foreign Service in 2011 and has served as an Office Manager in Caracas, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Madrid and Paris. Some career highlights include supporting the Afghan evacuation operation in the United Arab Emirates to provide humanitarian assistance; working a repatriation mission for USG staff, diplomatic pouches and medical supplies; coordinating an Aviation Security Conference; and staffing a U.S. Women’s Soccer Envoy. Natalie earned an M.A and B.A. from DePaul University in Chicago, her hometown.
Susana Guzman is a civil servant in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Her experience includes working in the EducationUSA network, the Fulbright Program, high school private exchanges and in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Susana holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Florida International University, and a master’s degree in International Education from the University of Leicester. Susana is a first generation American of Cuban and Colombian descent.
Kelly Keiderling: We Latin@s carry many races, ethnicities, and experiences. Diplomacy is perfect for us! I entered the Foreign Service after having grown up in Latin America and Portugal, and served in Zambia, Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Botswana, Cuba, Moldova, Venezuela, and Uruguay. My Main State jobs were in WHA, NEA, GTM, ECA, and now SCA. As a DAS, I lead our dynamite public diplomacy and Nepal-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh-Bhutan-Maldives teams, as we attract global audiences to partner with the U.S.
Megan Lysaght (she/hers) is a Management Analyst in the Global Talent Management Bureau’s Retention Unit. Hailing from Ventura, CA, Ms. Lysaght is a Mexican-American and is a first generation college graduate. She earned both her BA and MPPA from California Lutheran University, a proud Hispanic Serving Institution. Ms. Lysaght started her public service as a Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer in Azerbaijan, where she met her now-wife.
Olimar (Oli) Maisonet-Guzman is an economic officer from Puerto Rico. She currently serves as Political Officer at U.S. Embassy in Paris, covering human rights, religious freedom, and domestic affairs. Her first assignment was at U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad, where she supported repatriation efforts for over 600 American citizens. Before joining the Foreign Service, Oli worked as a program manager and staff assistant at the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Carlos F. Matus is a special agent with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) currently serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. DS is the law enforcement bureau of the State Department, leading worldwide security and law enforcement efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy and safeguard national security interests. Mr. Matus is 35-year veteran of the Department of State, and a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor.
David Mendez is a Foreign Service Officer originally from Riverside, California, who joined the Department in 2015 through the Rangel Fellowship. A proud son of Guatemalan immigrants, David completed his first tour in Tegucigalpa, and has also served in Vienna and the Operations Center. David is currently the Greece Desk Officer and is interested in continuing to work on transatlantic and hemispheric issues.
Moises Mendoza is a Colombian-American Foreign Service Officer working as a Watch Officer in the Department’s Operations Center. Moises has served in Matamoros, Mexico and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He received the 2020 the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad and the 2019 W. Averell Harriman Award for Constructive Dissent by an Entry Level Officer. Moises holds master’s degrees from Columbia University and the Hertie School of Governance, and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. He speaks French, German, and Spanish.
Natalia Molano is a Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the spokesperson at the U.S. Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She joined the Foreign Service in 2009 as a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow and worked in Washington, Guatemala City, Port Moresby, Kabul, and Lima. She earned a B.A. in International Affairs and a M.P.A. from The George Washington University. Natalia is a Floridian with Colombian roots.
Emili Morales-Kuchler has worked for the Federal Government as a Civil Servant since 1995. She has served as a Clinical Social Worker with the Department of State, Office of Medical Services, Child and Family Program (CFP), since 2012. She is originally from Panama City, Panama and studied Clinical Social Work, at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. She completed both her Bachelor’s of Arts in Social Work, BASW (Cum Laude) and Master’s Degree in Social Work, MSW, at Eastern Washington University (2002).
Amaury Munoz is the Cultural Affairs Officer in Casablanca, Morocco. Amaury was born in the Dominican Republic, immigrated to the United States in 2005 and joined the Department ten years later as a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow. His previous assignments include Islamabad and Guangzhou, and he holds a Master of Arts in International Relations and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Public Policy from the University at Albany, SUNY.
Regina Navarro-Gomez currently serves as a Program Coordinator for the Office of International Visitors with the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs. Her journey at the Department began through the Virtual Student Federal Services (VSFS) internship, where she interned for two consecutive academic years with ECA and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Office of the Coordinator for Cuban Affairs. Regina holds a B.A. in International Studies and B.A. in Political Science from Portland State University.
Raymond Raul Nelson is a second-tour Consular Officer in Brasilia, where he is the Deputy Fraud Prevention Manager. He also served in Jeddah as a Political-Economic Officer. Raymond interned at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York and the U.S. Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique. He earned his Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his bachelor’s degree from Carleton College. Born to a Puerto Rican mother and African American father in Cleveland, Ohio, he is an alumnus of the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship.
Andrea Sinai Pacheco serves as a Junior Program Officer within the Office of Alumni Affairs with the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. She started her State career as a Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) intern for Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA) from 2020-2021, where she earned the 2021 VSFS Intern of the Year award. She serves on the HECFAA Board as the Community Service Chair (2021- 2022). She earned an M.B.A (2021) and a B.S in Marketing at the University of South Florida in 2019 and speaks fluent Spanish.
A proud San Antonian, Greg Pardo is the spokesperson at U.S. Consulate-Mumbai. He’s worked in WHA’s Migration Working Group, Israel-Palestinian Affairs, in India, the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and the Cuba Desk. A recipient of various Meritorious Awards, he was named in Forbes 30 under 30, a Latino Next Generation National Security & Foreign Policy Leader, and participated in the 2020 ICAP. He served as president of the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies. He attended St. Mary’s University and the LBJ School at the University of Texas-Austin. He speaks Spanish, Bengali, and Hindi.
Mauricio Parra is a first-tour Foreign Service Officer currently working as vice consul in Calgary, Canada. He joined the Department of State in 2012 and has worked in public diplomacy in Matamoros and political/economic affairs in Ciudad Juarez. He has also served as Spanish consular fellow in Guayaquil and Bogota. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a minor in Italian Language.
Luis “Lu” Reinoso is a management-coned Foreign Service Officer currently working as a General Services Officer at U.S. Consulate General Erbil, Iraq. Prior tours include as the Management Officer in Recife, Brazil; Visa Unit Chief at U.S. Embassy Vienna, Austria; and Deputy Human Resources Officer at U.S. Embassy Abuja, Nigeria. Before the Foreign Service, Lu served a 20-year career as an active-duty Navy officer.
Isabel Romero is the President of the Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA). She works as a Security Program Officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Overseas Protective Operations. Her portfolio covers Bolivia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Honduras. She has worked in three functional bureaus: Diplomatic Security, Consular Affairs, and the Foreign Service Institute. She holds a Masters in International Security and Bachelors in Global Affairs from George Mason University. Isabel is currently the Programs Chair for Executive Women at State and serves on the leadership team of the DS Council for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
Jaime Salcedo oversees the planning, design, construction, and commissioning of special capital construction projects, valued at $2 billion. He joined the Department of State in 1989 and reached Senior Executive Service ranks in 2008. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from John Hopkins University and a master’s degree in engineering management from the George Washington University. He has received numerous honor and performance awards from the Department. He is fluent in Spanish.
J.M. Saxton-Ruiz is the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Chief in Buenos Aires. Previous assignments include La Paz, the Office of Central American Affairs, Adana, Buenos Aires, USUN during the 64th UNGA; and Islamabad. J.M. previously analyzed political risk at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). He earned a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from George Mason University. In addition to HECFAA and Post’s DEIA Board, J.M. is also a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
As Deputy Chief of Mission in Tirana, Albania, Demian Smith has helped lead U.S. support for justice reform in Albania, new U.S. military presences, and operations to assist thousands of Afghans evacuees in Albania. He has also served in India, Serbia, Thailand, and New Zealand. In Washington, he was Chief of Staff to the Counselor, EAP Special Assistant, and on the Policy Planning Staff. Demian has degrees from William & Mary and the National Defense University and is the son of Berta Llera, originally from Mexico. Demian previously worked at The Atlantic Council, taught middle school, drove a school bus, and was a chef at a medieval-themed dinner theater.
Adam Sotomayor joined the State Department in 2013 as a Presidential Management Fellow to work on global partnerships for the Secretary’s Office. Adam is an Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Adam has worked on the NSC initiative to promote diversity in the national security workforce, and advanced sanctions to counter terrorism. Adam served as a Political Officer and Deputy Press Attaché at the U.S. Embassies in Asuncion and Paris. Adam is an alumnus of the French American Foundation and U.S. Spain Council Young Leaders Programs, ICAP, and Aspen Institute Socrates Program.
David Tagle serves as a Political Officer at U.S. Consulate General São Paulo. His previous assignments include Desk Officer for Honduras, WHA Staff Assistant, DRL’s Office of Global Programs, INL’s Mexico desk, and in the INL section at Embassy Tegucigalpa. Before joining the Department, he worked for a D.C.-based democracy and governance NGO on human rights programs in Latin America. David was a 2016 Presidential Management Fellow.
Rafael Treviño, originally from Wauchula, Florida, where his family owned a Mexican bakery, is now a sign language interpreter with GTM/OAA. He is one of only six interpreters in the U.S. with Trilingual Master certification in interpreting between American Sign Language (ASL), English, and Spanish. He is passionate about ensuring the inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing people whose first language is ASL. One of his most recent projects is the establishment of a new federal interagency group for sign language interpreters.
Pablo Jairo Tutillo Maldonado became a Foreign Service Officer in 2019. He currently serves as a Public Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. For his first tour, he served as a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. Prior to the Foreign Service, Pablo held multiple roles as a teacher, researcher, building monitor and legal assistant, and lived in Israel and Turkey. Pablo was born in Ecuador and was raised in a Puerto Rican household in Connecticut. He is conversational in Hebrew, Spanish and Tajik Persian.
Eduardo Vargas Toro is DRL/WHA’s Policy Adviser for human rights in the Andean Region. Previously, he served as USAID’s Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives and Senior Communications Officer in USAID/Guatemala. A Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, he has been recognized by the Huffington Post’s Foreign Policy 40 Under 40 and New America Foundation’s Next Generation National Security & Foreign Policy Leaders. Eduardo, a Colombian-American, is an alumnus of Seton Hall University.
Xiomara Vargas joined the Department of State in 2015. She is a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs. She is also an international affairs and communications professional. She earned a Master of Science in Global Politics and Political Economy from the London School of Economics, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, International Studies, and French from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is learning Arabic, fluent in French, and a native Spanish speaker, who was born and grew up in Colombia.
Johanna Villalobos is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay where she manages the integration of public diplomacy strategy into interagency planning and policy decisions. She has served in several regional and functional positions throughout almost two decades in the Department. Johanna is an alumna of the Harvard Business School Secretary’s Leadership Seminar, the International Career Advancement Program, and the Pickering Fellowship Program.