By Joanna Otero-Cruz, Deputy Managing Director for Community Services 

We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 through October 15 to recognize the achievements, histories, cultures, and contributions of American’s whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean,  Central, and South America. As a daughter of both Puerto Rican and Costa Rican parents, I’m proud to be among the 62 million Hispanics who live in the U.S1.

Hispanic Heritage Month is important because it allows us to take time to better understand the complexities and intersectionality of Latino culture. As the Deputy Managing Director of Community Services, I pride myself in being authentic regarding my upbringing and culture, while prioritizing the well-being of my community. It’s important to acknowledge that everyone’s experience is different but, that’s why taking time to understand each other, allows us to better understand ourselves and even more our value in society.

September is a significant month for Latin American countries. For instance, September 15 marks the anniversary of the independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.

“I am proud of my Hispanic/Latino roots and have realized how they have given me a particular perspective in the different leadership positions I have held during my career. My life and career have been enriched by interacting with different groups of people from all cultures.”

Here are just a few of my favorite Hispanic leaders you’ve probably read about but look around your own life and all the unsung hero’s not in our history books but individuals who made an impact in our everyday lives:

First, my mother, who left everything and everyone behind in her homeland of Costa Rica in pursuit of work, —she sacrificed everything to come to the United States and work to take care of her family back home. Like so many immigrants, my Mother took pride in sharing her culture in many ways such as food, dance, religion, and many traditional customs passed on to her children.

As the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice of Hispanic heritage, Justice Sotomayor is an inspirational No-Limit Latina, inspiring us to reach for the stars in our careers and never back down from a challenge. As a passionate advocate for defendant rights, criminal justice reform, and equality for all, Justice Sotomayor is working hard to make the world a better place for all of us and the fight at the present-day Supreme Court which is just heating up.

Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space as part of the nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. Ochoa is a talented engineer, former NASA astronaut, and former director of the Johnson Space Center – ¡una mujer de mucho talento!  

Dolores Huerta, una guerrera, an outstanding labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association (along with Cesar Chavez), now known as the United Farm Workers of America. She is a fierce defender of workers’, immigrants’, and women’s rights.

During this month of Hispanic Heritage let’s celebrate the many extraordinary pioneers and leaders in their industries and game-changers in society. Forever grateful for their courage to overcome obstacles and paving the way for others to follow.

1 U.S. Census Bureau (