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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

By Jessica Sinn

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Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 through October 15. During this time of recognition, education and celebration, we asked several members of the university community to share how they honor their respective cultures and the history behind them.


image of Rodrigo Rodrigo Aguayo
Student Mentoring Program Coordinator, Project MALES

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

Hispanic Heritage is a time to reflect on your roots, where you come from, your ancestors and traditions.

How do you celebrate your heritage?

In my household, we celebrate our heritage in our family gatherings. We like to turn on the grill and cook some carne asada and listen to some Norteño music.

What message would you like to send to the Hispanic community during this month of celebration and reflection?

I think as a Hispanic community we should be proud of our traditions and of our culture. I know it’s only officially a month, but we should reflect and celebrate who we are every day!


image of MariDr. Maricela De La Cruz
Executive Principal, UT Charter School

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? 

As a Latina woman, Hispanic Heritage Month means the world to me. It is at the core of my values, what defines me and what drives me. This month provides us the opportunity to showcase the pride we have for our culture and celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions made by those who came before us. Although in my experience Hispanics radiate pride and honor every day of the year, this month allows us to share with others the beauty of our culture, through art, music, food and history. Hispanic heritage, to me, is about family, faith, pride and love.

How do you and your family celebrate your history and culture?

My family and I celebrate our culture and heritage by the way we live our everyday lives. I have grown up being taught that family is everything. Without each other, we are nothing. We find every and any reason to come together, and whether it is for a special occasion or simply a family dinner on a random day of the week, you will find the celebration full of food, music and laughter. Our culture is tamale making during Christmas time, and grandma making us caldo, abuelita’s hot chocolate, and pan dulce on cold winter days; it’s rubbing eggs on babies when they are sick and lighting candles in times of need; it’s praying together to give thanks and having grandma bless us before we leave her house. Most importantly, our culture is celebrated by our unconditional love for one another and the time we share together.

What message would you like to send to the Hispanic community during this month of celebration and reflection?  

The most important message I would like to send to my fellow Hispanics this month is to never forget where you come from, take pride in your name, always hold your head up high, and remember there is nothing we cannot accomplish.


image of teacherThelma Herrera
Spanish Teacher, UT Elementary School

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? 

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and recognize the presence and influence of the Latinx culture in our society. Times are changing and it is good to see our culture is embraced by many in the United States. There is an abundance of influence through food, art, furniture, clothing, music and dance. For example, I now see non-Latinos with piñatas at their parties. Many people are also interested in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos. The movie Coco won two Oscars and showed the beauty of Mexican culture. It is wonderful to see this influence becoming part of mainstream America. However, as our customs are becoming more visible, it is important that people appreciate, respect and acknowledge the origins of these traditions and not appropriate them as their own.

How do you and your family celebrate your history and culture? 

I am very proud to be of Hispanic heritage. My family was originally from this part of Texas before it was part of the United States. We pass down through the generations traditions that make us proud. During Christmas, we have tamaladas with an assembly line of family members each having a role in constructing the tamales. Growing up in South Texas, on Mother’s Day, I would wake up to the sound of Mariachis serenading my mom.

Of course, these are just a few things as there are many other traditions that we have upheld through the generations including our wonderful folklore. My mom’s younger siblings were the ones who made sure I knew the tales of “La Llorona,” “La Lechuza” and of course “El Cucuy.” I have also been fortunate to be a part of the traditions of my husband’s family. During 16 de septiembre [Mexico Independence Day], we are very proud to be a part of the celebrations honoring his great grandfather, Eustacio Cepeda at the Cepeda Branch Library on 7th Street. Eustacio Cepeda was part of the Comité Patriótico Mexicano. Along with others, he organized the Fiestas Patrias celebrations at Parque Zaragoza.

 What message would you like to send to the Hispanic community during this month of celebration and reflection?  

As part of the Hispanic community, I think it is important to keep our youth in mind and help them become successful Latinos. There are many roads to success, and it is up to our larger community to make sure they are striving to do their best and pursuing their passions without forgetting where their families originated.


image of student Janet Rasmussen
Art History/Art Administration Junior
Student Ambassador, RGV Familia program

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for me to celebrate my culture. To make everyone aware of all the powerful people who can before me. It helps me appreciate my ancestors and the traditions.

How do you celebrate your heritage? 

A tradition we do to celebrate is throwing a big party. We play our Spanish music, eat and dance all night!

What message would you like to send to the Hispanic community during this month of celebration and reflection?

Be proud! We’ve done amazing work, and we are continuing to make a change. 956 and Proud!


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Bella Anita Vargas
Communication and Leadership Junior,
Student Ambassador, RGV Familia program

What does Hispanic Heritage Month Mean to you?

Hispanic Heritage Month marks the history of our roots, of our collective stories that trace back to Spain, Mexico, South and Central America. I am extremely proud to be Hispanic. Hispanic, for me, means color, joy, charisma, flavor and a whole lot of hard work. I left my family and my community, which centers on our rich multicultural heritage, to pursue my dreams at UT Austin. Since then my main drive was to do my best every day to show that, as a Hispanic Woman, I deserve to be here, that we have something special to offer.

How do you and your family celebrate your history and culture?

We celebrate by embracing our culture, such as learning traditional Mexican recipes, including family recipes, and traveling to Mexico to learn about our heritage.

What message would you like to send to the Hispanic community during this month of celebration and reflection?

I want everyone to always remember that our community is multiracial and multicultural. Our rich community has made a major impact in many aspects of life— from food to dancing to sports to modern art. It is essential to support each other both in our similarities and in the qualities that make us unique and special. Be proud of where you come from and embrace your heritage! Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!


image of teacher Francesca Simone Villalva
K-5 Teacher, University Charter School

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the strides that people in the Hispanic culture have made in the United States and the world.

How do you and your family celebrate your history and culture?

My family and I celebrate our culture all year round by making traditional foods such as tortillas, tacos, menudo and so much more! I am the best taste-tester in my family! We also tell and listen to stories about my grandparents and parents growing up in Mexico and look at photographs together.

What message would you like to send to the Hispanic community during this month of celebration and reflection?

I want to extend the message of hope to everyone in our community. Things have been so hard these last few years, and messages about our culture have been misconstrued. Oftentimes we have been ostracized because of our heritage, but we have to have hope that things will get better.


Veronica D. Ruiz-Winner
Executive Principal, University Charter School

image of teacher What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? 

It is time to reflect and celebrate the contributions Hispanics have made in society. For example, in arts, entertainment and social justice causes—educationally and politically.

How do you and your family celebrate your history and culture? 

We celebrate it through the food we cook, the music we listen to, the language we speak, and traditions from holidays to religions celebrations. This is even more important to my family now that I have a daughter. I want to show her the culture I grew up in and teach her to take pride in her heritage.

What message would you like to send to the Hispanic community during this month of celebration and reflection? 

I would like to send a message to remember your roots and to celebrate who you are and what your ancestors worked hard to build for you.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Easy ways to celebrate a culture different from your own is by educating yourself. Watch a foreign film, go to a museum, a festival, learn a new recipe. It can be exciting to learn about cultures and people different from you; that is what makes the world such an incredible place. Don’t be afraid embrace differences.