During Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, employee affinity group Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA) invited the workforce to reflect upon why they celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Here are their words, honoring esperanza (hope) as well as the Department’s roots in 150 words or less:
Greg Pardo, Foreign Service Officer, Migration Working Group
For me celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at the State Department is the time of the year when we honor our community’s intellectual, cultural, and policy contributions to our nation’s foreign policy efforts around the world. We honor not just our contributions, but also celebrate the leaders who are advancing key U.S. foreign policy priorities and those who have paved the way for our community over the years. Every HHM, I take the time to remind myself of how diverse and rich our community is, and how it will continue to evolve. More importantly, I remind myself that celebrating these contributions is a year-long endeavor because there are still many young students we need to help join the Department, a group of talented mid-level officers who we need to help advance through the ranks through mentorship, and senior members whose work we need to highlight.
Valeria Herrera, Human Resources Specialist, Bureau of Consular Affairs/Human Resources Division
I celebrate my Hispanic heritage as a State employee because I’ve experienced firsthand the impact of the work our agency does worldwide having lived on both sides of the southern border. Being born and raised in Mexico, I remember when I first received my U.S. passport. I was in elementary school abroad and my parents were way more excited than me about it; little did I know at the time that little book was going to be a life-changer. My experience as a Hispanic American puts into perspective how important the efforts we do are to others like me. Our work, from issuing visas and passports to assisting citizens abroad, honors the commitment we have with other countries. My heritage helped guide my career choice to work at State, as I believe sharing the best of each culture will allow us to continue having strong diplomatic relations.
Paloma Gonzalez, Deputy Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest
To put it simply, I celebrate my Hispanic heritage as a State employee, because it is inextricably a part of who I am as a person as well as who we are as a nation. Hispanics make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population, and I give us a voice and a place at the table when I represent the United States overseas. The majority of people overseas do not believe I am American, let alone an American diplomat. As the face of our diplomacy, I am not only able to shatter stereotypes, but I have found my heritage to be a secret weapon. My dark complexion, Latin heritage, and native Spanish, which had so often acted as a liability growing up in the United States, proved to be a powerful asset as a U.S. diplomat allowing me to enter worlds that remained inaccessible to many of my colleagues.
Lidice Calero Calafell, Foreign Affairs Officer; Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs
I celebrate my Hispanic heritage as a State employee because it is who I am. I am a proud daughter of Cuban refugees whose shoulders I stand on, morally tasked with paying it forward and working diligently to ensure that little girls all over the globe have the same freedom and privilege I was born with as an American with Cuban roots. I work every day to advance our interests in expanding civic space and ensuring fundamental freedoms are respected and protected for a more vibrant, inclusive, and empowering society. My heritage drives me to do better and fight harder to give others what I was born with: Freedom.
Carolina Escalera, Foreign Service Officer
As a Latina employee at the State Department, I celebrate my heritage because it is part of my identity and allows me to be a better employee. The United States takes great pride in being a multicultural nation and the U.S. government and workforce should reflect that diversity. Diversity is essential, whether in the meeting room discussing our foreign policy approach or on camera as we present these values across the globe. In the realm of public diplomacy, our diversity is what helps us better engage with our partners and our adversaries. As a diplomat, I’ve committed to demonstrating that diversity helps us connect with people and engage on shared values. Whether it is hosting a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Indonesia or being on camera to discuss a Secretary of State visit to the Dominican Republic, my heritage has helped me contribute positively to the Department of State.
Erica Marrero, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey
As a Foreign Service Officer overseas, I celebrate Hispanic Heritage month for two main reasons. First, in the posts where I have served in Europe and South Asia, there have been few other Hispanic or Latino/a Americans representing the United States. I feel responsible for sharing with the Embassy community and the local public our diversity, our rich cultures, and our contributions to American history and society. Secondly, when I am overseas, I am far away from mi gente. And Hispanic Heritage month reminds me that I carry with me the dreams and accomplishments of all those who came before me.
Rocio Mercado-Garcia, Foreign Policy Analyst
Celebrating Hispanic heritage at the State Department is a way to recognize and rejoice in the rich and colorful diversity that make up the Hispanic/Latino(a)/Latinx community. We collaborate with friends and colleagues from various backgrounds on a daily basis so why not do so in a festive atmosphere that enables creativity to flourish generating an environment of inclusiveness and belonging. I am so very proud to work at an agency that celebrates Hispanic heritage along with the many different cultures that make up our community and recognize the wealth of ideas and values each person brings. Welcoming new and similar perspectives and understandings is what makes us stronger as a community that works together to help solve some of the most challenging issues affecting an ever-changing world. This amalgam of wholesome traditions brings to focus what is really important; family, community, and hope for the future.
Joseph Salazar, Chargé D’Affaires, A.I, U.S. Embassy Asunción
Growing up, my father instilled in me the pride of my Mexican heritage, and he and my North Carolinian mother taught me the importance of service to others. The hard work and perseverance of both in service – my father as an officer in the United States Air Force and my mother as a Registered Nurse – laid the foundation for me to grow and succeed. As a State employee, I have the best of two worlds. I honor my father’s family in serving and protecting the country and the American people that have given my Mexican ancestors so much, and I advocate in our partner countries throughout the world for the same access and opportunities to improve lives as that which the Hispanic community continues to struggle for in the United States.
Moises Mendoza, Foreign Service Officer, Central American Affairs
I celebrate my Latin heritage as a Foreign Service Officer because it’s important to show other Americans and our foreign counterparts how diverse our country is. While I’m proud to be an American, I’m also proud of my roots. I’m proud to have family in Latin America, proud to speak Spanish, and proud to have a job where I can travel the world and show others how special the United States is. This is what keeps me rooted and motivated to do what I can to help others and make our world just a little better each day.
Olimar Maisonet-Guzman, Consular and Political Officer, U.S. Embassy in Paris
The saying goes: “I’d still be Puerto Rican, even if born on the Moon.” Celebrating my Hispanic heritage and making myself visible is a powerful tool to teach people about my history and traditions. It is also a way to show how our diplomatic corps can look like the diverse people it represents.
For more on this month’s celebration, please visit https://www.state.gov/hispanic-heritage-month-2021/.