National Hispanic Heritage Month began September 15 and runs until October 15. This period is intended to celebrate the extensive histories, cultures, and many contributions of Americans whose family members and ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
The History of this Observance
The celebration of Hispanic Heritage started in 1968 as a weeklong tribute. In 1988, President Reagan expanded it to a monthlong observance. On August 17th, 1988, it was enacted into law. Celebrated nationwide with festivals, art shows, conferences, community gatherings, and much more, this month is rich with honoring the roots and values of each of the following nations including: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Why does it start mid-month?
September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of the independence of Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
Sharing the Stories of our Employees with Hispanic Heritage
To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we're sharing the stories and experiences of our SAMBAZON employees, their families, and their cultural heritage. Read on to discover a deeper history of several people who help make the SAMBAZON team a family and the families that helped to raise them.
Herid Flores: Many Celebrations and Delicious Dishes
Product Development Manager
I am Mexican American. It means that I have two cultures and more holidays. Our culture is very tied to family, food, and a lot of celebrations. We focus a lot on Christmas, which is a big holiday for us, but we don’t really celebrate on Christmas. We celebrate Christmas Eve, the day before. Our celebrations start around 6 or 7 PM and can go on pretty late until 2 or 3 AM.
We like to be together; both our extended and close family. We eat lots of different foods, open gifts, drink, and dance. We tend to have a lot of fun through Christmas and into New Years. We’ll find an excuse to be together and have a party.
I’m especially inspired by both of my parents, I can’t really pick one of them. They’ve done a great job raising me and my siblings. They both had a very strong worth ethic, a lot of perseverance, and not giving up. They always told us to follow our passions, but they weren’t crazy strict with us. They told us to do what we want but to always be passionate about it. My dad has his own contracting company, and my mom worked for an interior design company.
I’m a big foodie, I love food so much, and I have a hard time limiting myself to choosing just one favorite dish. I like that Mexican cuisine is very diverse, there’s something for everyone. I eat mostly plant-based, and I can always find options in Mexican cuisine, everything is really flexible.
The dish I make the most for myself on a regular basis and enjoy is my version of a Mexican lasagna. I know that’s an Italian Dish, but spice it up with my own spin: lots of veggies, chipotle, jalapenos, vegan cheese – sometimes spicy pepper jack.
Another holiday that my family celebrates is Día de Muertos. My aunts and uncles are very big into celebrating the Day of the Dead. We honor our ancestors and loved ones who have passed away.
Like in the movie Coco, we set up an "ofrendas" decoration or altar with food, fruits, and pictures to honor those family members. We make their favorite food items to display, including a traditional sweet bread. The "ofrendas" & "Dia De Muertos" holiday dates back to the early Mesoamerica era, where the Aztecs began the traditions.
Denise Leat: Spanish Immersion and Cultural Keys
Vice President of Human Resources
My paternal grandfather’s family immigrated from Spain to “the Americas” in the late 19thcentury, including south Texas/northern Mexico, Chile, and California. We didn’t speak Spanish regularly at home, but growing up my family spent a lot of time in Mexico, which is how I was “immersed” and became fluent in Spanish as a child.
My fondest memories related to my Hispanic side include big family celebrations of weddings, birthdays, and even wakes/funerals to honor the souls departed. And of course holidays, especially the Christmas season which ends January 6 (El Dia de Los Reyes).
One key cultural aspect that I still embrace and witnessed firsthand in practice from my father, grandparents, and many aunts and uncles is “work hard but don’t forget that work is to pay for your real life”. Basically - give 100% of your energy and talent to your occupation. And dedicate even more to cultivating strong relationships with your family and friends.
Others include my enduring love of Spanish language music of the 40s & 50s that I heard growing up, having a home full of color (no beige or off-white rooms en la casa de Leat!), and feeding people because “food is love”. With regards to food, my chilaquiles and picadillo are almost as good as what my Papa made.
Nestor Lopez: Family Orientated and Mutual Respect
Customer Service Coordinator
I’m Mexican, and I come from Mexican Heritage. What I really like about it is the style of music and the food for sure. It has a really special meaning to me as it’s a really family-orientated culture. We have a lot of respect for our elders and parents. The two biggest things are family culture and the respect we share.
I’m inspired by my father, mom, and brother. They are all business owners. I can see how hard they work and all the sacrifices they make for the family because owning a business takes a lot of responsibility. My brother is a part owner of a mechanic shop, my father owns a landscaping business, and my mom has a house cleaning business. I also have a younger brother and sister. We grew up in San Clemente, but we did move from El Bajio De Bonillas municipio de Silao, Guanajuanto Mexico when we were very young.
My family’s culture influences my life in many different ways: the food, the music, and the connection of knowing a lot of the Hispanic Community that lives here in San Clemente. It’s always interrelated and family orientated. Social life is really nice and easy to meet people in the community – there are Quinceanera's and other gatherings and everyone is invited. We also have padrinos who sponsor these parties by contributing financially or providing food. It’s a culture of helping each other out. When someone does contribute, the host of the party will recognize those that have helped out.
Nowadays, everyone celebrates the usual holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cinco de Mayo is one that we celebrate every year in the States. If I had to choose one that I liked the most, it would be Navidad, or Christmas. In Mexico, there are three kings instead of Santa Claus. We also have the tradition of the Baby Jesus getting placed in the cradle on Christmas Eve, which is always nice to see when we visit Mexico, although I don’t partake, many family members do.
My favorite food from my Hispanic heritage is tamales in December, which are really good. There are many different types, but the main one is meat with chile sauce. I also have to get a Mexican Torta when I visit Mexico, which is a sandwich bread with beans, similar to a burrito, but with bread. The simplest meal is ham, avocado, and bread. Depending on where you go, it’s different, but the main thing I love is tortas and tamales.
I visit Mexico about every six years, but my family tries to go every year in December for a month, I don’t know how they do it. It’s great to see your friends that you haven’t seen in a while, and then you return and get busy again in the states and end up not seeing them again for a few years.
For music, I like Los Bukis, they’re a romantic genre. I also enjoy Mariachi as it’s traditional and I enjoy it. Vicente Fernández is another. It’s a big part of Hispanic Culture but has also had an influence across the world.
Sara Bradbury: A Blended Family Business
Community Marketing Specialist
Although I am not Hispanic, my blended family is.
I would like to talk about my stepdad Andres’ father and mother, my grandma Chimis, and grandpa Rueben, who immigrated here from Mexico when they were younger.
My grandpa immigrated here as a teenager and started his career with multiple food trucks serving the area of Anaheim, and Garden Grove. He became an American citizen shortly after, as well as my grandma. My grandpa built his business to support his growing family, and once they became of age, my stepdad and his siblings followed suit in the business and helped develop and expand my grandpa’s food truck fleet. My grandpa instilled the importance of learning and mastering a trade in my stepdad, aunts, and uncles. He made sure they worked, contributed, and learned the value of effort and gratitude. He sold his business later in life and retired at a young age.
Today, my stepdad owns a contracting business, with skills learned under the advice of my grandpa’s wisdom. This has inherently been echoed through my stepdad to all his children and stepchildren since he became our dad (there are 6 of us!).
I’m inspired by the drive of my grandpa and stepdad, and proud to have a family who understands the value of hard work and finds gratitude in the rewards of their patience. You don’t give up when it gets hard!
Also… My favorite food is the ceviche my grandpa makes.
Sylvia Mendez: A Local Latina who Shaped our Nation
Orange County native Sylvia Mendez was at the center of the landmark Mendez vs. Westminster back in the 1940s. If you have 10 minutes, watch Sylvia tell her family’s story in this video. Sylvia’s parents fought to get their children (and others) into the “White school”.
This all happened in Orange County and the landmark decision led to schools being desegrated locally, which paved the way for nationwide desegregation laws with the US Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs the Board of Education. Our Vice President of Human Resources Denise Leat had the honor of meeting Sylvia and hearing her tell her story a few years ago.
Thank you to all of the amazing employees that shared a piece of their culture with us to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. What are some cultural traditions that you practice? Share with us in the comments below.