Mid-September to mid-October marks Hispanic Heritage Month—a time to honor the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latin Americans, and to celebrate the heritage rooted in all Latin American countries.
But first: what exactly does “Hispanic” mean? With 41 million people in the U.S. who speak Spanish at home, it can be easy to get confused about who is Hispanic, who is Latino, and who, if anyone, is both.
According to Dictionary.com, the word “Hispanic” describes a “Spanish-speaking person living in the U.S., especially one of Latin American descent.” This can encompass Spanish speakers from Spain or elsewhere outside of Latin America. “Latino” on the other hand is defined as “people of Latin American origin or descent, especially those living in the U.S.” Reading that closely, you’ll see that you don’t need to live in the U.S. to be Latino (or Latina). Consider that when you think about how to identify yourself or people you know!
More importantly, though, is the spirit of this month. As a Mexican American I could not be more proud of the accomplishments of so many Hispanics, and the amazing contributions they have made. Since there are far too many to name, I have decided to honor them all by spotlighting four whose achievements have touched me deeply for various reasons—including that most are healthcare and caregiving heroes. They are:
Dr. Carlos Mery, a cardiac surgeon from Mexico, currently the Associate Chief of Pediatric and Congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, Dell Children’s Medical Center and University of Texas Dell Medical School. His gifts and dedication have transformed the lives of countless children, including through his involvement with the Heart Gift Foundation, which brings life-saving congenital heart defect surgery to children from around the world where specialized medical treatment is either scarce or nonexistent.
Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde. A native of Panama who moved to the largely Hispanic populated city of San Antonio and found that there were few Hispanic nurses serving the community. Representation in academic settings, research, and public policy was also sparse. Highly motivated to increase Hispanic participation in healthcare, she went on to earn one of nursing’s highest honors—a fellowship from the American Academy of Nursing, and also became a permanent representative to UNICEF for the International Federation of Business and Professional Women.
Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla are a duo of artists living in Puerto Rico who were the United States Representatives for the 2011 Venice Biennale 54th International Art Exhibition. Guillermo is originally from Cuba. As an art collector, I am profoundly moved by their talent, their vision and their magnificent work, which gives me courage. Their series titled Shape Shifter inspires me to imagine the immigrants who have transformed construction sites with their blood and muscle. One of the pieces in the series is the basis for the cover of my book.
Dr. Jane Delgado, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health. The Alliance serves over 100 million Hispanic individuals each year, aiming to provide the best health outcomes for their patients. Dr. Delgado was named one of the 101 Most Influential Latinos in the U.S, and has received the Dr. Harvey Wiley award from the FDA Commissioner (the highest award given to a civilian). She continues to be a true innovator by transforming healthcare.
Gracias, Dr. Carlos Mery, Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde, artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, and Dr. Jane Delgado for your talent, your vision and your tireless dedication.
Friends, Email or message me with the names of Hispanic people who have made a difference in your life, and why. Send a picture, too!