Editor's Note: When deciding how to describe an individual's heritage, we refer to the widely-followed Associated Press style guide. AP recommends following the preference of the subject of the story. In this piece, Latinx, Hispanic, Latina and Latino are all used.
When Stacy Jurado-Miller reflects on the meaning of Latinx Heritage Month, she thinks of family.
“Latinx culture to me is Jurado culture. It’s giant backyard parties held under blue plastic tarps. It’s my Papa and Nana,” says Stacy, a Home Region program officer whose work focuses on regional affordability and housing.
“It’s my aunts teaching me to make tamales and a blender that was stained with chiles from that point forward. It’s mariachi music at weddings, funerals that feel like celebrations and red lipstick and hoop earrings as daily norms.”
Prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a shared goal in the Walton Family Foundation’s philanthropic strategy. For Latinx Heritage Month, we asked Stacy and other members of our team what this time of celebration means to them and their families.
Could you share your story about your Latinx heritage, culture or experiences?
Kay Contreras, Education Program Support Associate: Growing up Bolivian American in the San Francisco Bay Area shaped my identity and Latinx heritage. The Bolivian population on the West Coast is small. My family found community in the Latino Cultural District (Mission District). This cultural melting pot of Latinos allowed us to form authentic connections with other Spanish-speaking Latinos. And it allowed for the opportunity to create new traditions, learn from each other and support one another.
Daylin Muñoz Nuñez, Environment Program Officer: Niagara Falls is an iconic natural landmark between the U.S. and Canada, but for me, it has an additional meaning. It is the place where I crossed the border to seek political asylum almost 20 years ago after I fled my homeland, Cuba. Today, my dad, sister and nephew are also living in the U.S. with me.
Stacy Jurado-Miller, Home Region Program Officer: My family immigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico four generations ago. Those are the generations that built the bridge. It humbles me to know that I didn’t even have to walk across it. Latinx culture to me is Jurado culture. It’s giant backyard parties held under blue plastic tarps. It’s my Papa and Nana. It’s pan dulce from Diana’s Bakery. It’s my aunts teaching me to make tamales and a blender that was stained with chiles from that point forward. It’s mariachi music at weddings, funerals that feel like celebrations and red lipstick and hoop earrings as daily norms. It’s impressing my kid’s friends as I flip tortillas over an open stove flame. My story shows how Latinx history morphs through generations but never disappears.
Jessie Long, Communications Officer: My family and I moved from Colombia to the United States when I was 17. Moving to a new place where the culture is significantly different is difficult for anyone, let alone a teenager trying to figure out her identity and place in the world. I was having a hard time because I didn’t speak English, so I felt isolated. Eventually, I started to assimilate and learn about this new place I found myself in, making friends from around the world and feeling more and more like I belonged. I have now spent half of my life here. I feel like a child of two worlds, taking the best of both and grateful I had the opportunity to shape my life with that influence.
Is there a leader or a specific organization from the Latinx community that you look up to?
Kay Contreras: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve, is a big inspiration. Justice Sotomayor is an example of someone who leads with values. To quote her, "The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever."
Daylin Muñoz Nuñez: Sonia Sotomayor, of Puerto Rican descent, serves as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was a student activist at Princeton University who persuaded the university president to hire full-time Latinx faculty and include classes on Latin American studies for the first time.
Stacy Jurado-Miller: My background is in affordable housing development. There’s a company out of California called Primestor that develops real estate in underserved Latino communities. I admire the way the founder, Arturo Sneider, has used development as a form of activism. The disconnect between the people who create affordable housing and the communities that need it is a system failure. It’s always inspiring to see people working to do things differently.
Jessie Long: I really admire the work UnidosUS is doing. For over 50 years, their organization has advocated for economic, political and social advancement for all Latinx, helping eliminate the barriers that keep us from being an active voice in the decisions made on our behalf.
How do you celebrate Latinx Heritage Month? And why do you feel it is important to celebrate it?
Kay Contreras: Being with family is my favorite way to celebrate. Listening to and documenting stories from our elders is so important. Learning from our past can impart valuable lessons we can use to inform the present and the change we are striving to make for future generations.
Daylin Muñoz Nuñez: Cooking traditional Cuban food and salsa dancing is the best way to stay connected to my roots. My husband is from Colombia. We compare phrases, dishes and dance moves. I recognize that Latinx culture is very diverse and love learning about different Latin countries.
Stacy Jurado-Miller: This year, I’d like to celebrate by digging into housing needs specific to the Latinx community in Northwest Arkansas. As the cost of living in this region spikes, the rise in housing costs is felt disproportionally across minority groups. It’s important to ensure that housing solutions are created in partnership with those communities.
Jessie Long: I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by learning about other amazing Latin American cultures. I love learning about their traditions, music, food and everything that makes their country unique. We are diverse and have so much history. It is important to understand and celebrate our journey and contributions to the world.
What useful resource could you share with people who want to learn about Latinx Heritage Month or get more involved with the community?
Kay Contreras: NPR’s “Code Switch” podcast is a favorite resource. For learning and humor, John Leguizamo’s one-man show “Latin History for Morons” is a Tony-nominated production.
Daylin Muñoz Nuñez: Disney’s movie “Encanto” shows a pretty good representation of what a Latinx family looks like.
Stacy Jurado-Miller: A quick google of “housing and racial equity” will lead you down a rabbit hole of information. In non-work-related suggestions, I recommend Mely Martinez’s book, "My Mexican Home Kitchen: Traditional Home-Style Recipes that Capture the Flavors and Memories of Mexico." It’s a whole lot easier to learn to make a proper pozole than it is to learn to speak proper Spanish.
Jessie Long: I highly recommend watching “Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente).” The film is based on a true story. It offers a look into the history of the Colombian Amazon and the experiences of indigenous tribes. It follows the journey of a shaman (the last of his people), who helped a German explorer seeking a plant to cure his illness in 1909, and an American botanist also seeking the same plant in the 1940s. It highlights the importance of preserving Amazonian communities.