Celebrating 25 Years: My Hispanic Heritage Month Transformation

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This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com’s blog, where I regularly contribute stories. I was compensated for this post but the opinions are mine.

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When you own a network with top Latino bloggers and content creators, and the nation’s largest event for Hispanic influencers in media, social media and entertainment, every day is Hispanic Heritage Month. I truly live a fully bilingual and bicultural life.

But it wasn’t always like that.

Even though I was raised in Miami by two proud, Cuban-born grandparents who only spoke Spanish, the only Latino identity I had growing up was my Cubanhood.

Ironically, it wasn’t until the age of 20 at an Hispanic Heritage Month event at my college that a Latin American girl I met and became seriously involved with helped me discover my fuller Latino roots through travel, food, sports and other fun experiences that, today, are second nature to me.

Young love led me to find and embrace the totality of my Latino roots one day in 1990. But it is was something that did not fade, even after the love did, and has continually enriched by life.

My Latino culture has opened me up to a wealth of relationships, cultural exchanges and businesses that include a wonderful Mexican American wife, four children, as well as ownership in the Hispanicize event, Hispanicize Wire and DiMe Media.

As I celebrate the 25th anniversary of my Hispanic Heritage Month awakening (September 15 thru October 15) here are six things that I find most incredible about my pan-Latino journey:

  1. Friendships: I feel very blessed to live in Miami, a city that in all ways reflects the full kaleidoscope of Latin American nationalities. My hometown has introduced me to dear friends hailing from Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela and Nicaragua, among others. And I have had the great fortune to have many travel adventures with many of these friends in and around their native countries.
  1. Family: My formerly Cuban-only family now includes marriages with Latinos and Latinas from Argentina, Nicaragua, Chile and Mexico.
  1. Mexican, Tex Mex, Peruvian, Argentina and Nicaraguan Cuisines: I’m passionate about my Cuban food, but I have to admit that, overall, Mexican food is more diverse. My Cuban family can’t understand how I’ve developed a palate that withstands heat, but chalk that up to taking many culinary journeys with a foodie wife who has even managed to make me a fan of jalapeños. Peruvian and Argentine food are also in my top five list, alongside sushi.
  1. Soccer: Even though I’m definitely an NFL guy, first and foremost, and that will never change, I have a deep appreciation for soccer (or futbol, as they say in Latin America). I went to my first professional soccer match in Honduras in 1992 and it made a huge impression on me to see how happy everybody was as they wildly rooted for their local teams. As of that year, I started watching the World Cup, a ritual that I keep to this today.
  1. Business: Considering that I barely liked to speak Spanish until I was almost 21, I’ve far surpassed my wildest expectations. Each of the companies I’ve created and sold throughout the past 15 years have had the word Hispanic and/or Latino in their names including Hispanicize, Hispanic PR Wire, Hispanic Digital Network, LatinClips, ConTexto Latino, Latina Mom Bloggers, the Hispanic PR Blog and more.
  1. My Faith: Perhaps the biggest gift my Latino roots have ever given me was that they opened me up to steadily attending a Spanish-language Christian church that I assisted for 11 pivotal years of my life. I learned more than I ever could have imagined about people from other cultures and at a level of intimacy that, frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate better any other way. I even had the honor of serving as the translator!

We all have different ways to celebrate our heritage, but a life rich in Latino culture has truly made my life abundantly greater than I could have ever imagined!

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