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Hispanic Heritage Month

In 1968, Americans began observing Hispanic American heritage and contributions. Sept. 15 marks the beginning of a period of celebratory remembrance as Latin American countries began gaining their independence. Oct. 12 is Día de la Raza or Day of the Race – a celebration of the mixed indigenous and European heritage of Mexico that began in 1928.  

National Hispanic American Heritage Month, also known as Hispanic Heritage Month, has been observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as a national holiday since 1988. We continue to honor and recognize the important contributions, diverse cultures and inseparable history of individuals whose lineage is connected to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.  

Featured Henrico Employees

Officer C.J. Luis-Ceballos, Henrico County Police Division

Please share something that is meaningful to you about your Hispanic heritage

For me, the most meaningful [aspect of] my Hispanic heritage is how close we are to our families. I’m from Venezuela, which is located on top of South America. We are part of the Caribbean. Our number one sport is baseball. We love to dance salsa, merengue, reggaeton and other local types of music. Our types of food come from Spain, local tribes and the Caribbean. My name is Carlos, and I’m one of five Carloses in my family. My mom calls us by both names to be able to differentiate us. We are [a] very happy and welcoming people, despite the adversities that the country is going through at this time. 

Please tell us about your family heritage.  

My family is Spanish descendants. My grandfather migrated to Venezuela in the 1950s, when the country of Spain was going through rough times and Venezuela was an economically growing country. 

Please share how you came to the county, your agency/role and what you value about being with the county.  

I came to the U.S. in the year of 2000. I was 12 years of age. I went to middle school and high school and graduated from Freeman High in 2006. I work with the Henrico Police Division. Ever since I came to [the] U.S. and saw the first Henrico police officer, I always said I wanted to be one of them. What I value about being with the county is the diversity of people that we have. I hope that we can learn from each other and make the county of Henrico a better county than what it is now. 

Cristina Ramirez, Henrico County Public Library

Please share something that is meaningful to you about your Hispanic heritage

The gift of being Hispanic/Latina/Spanish-speaking is that my parents gave me the gift to talk to, understand, connect with and work with 585 million Spanish speakers from over 20 countries. We share common roots, culture, histories and experiences. I can use my heritage in my profession as [a] librarian and in my work at HCPL. I feel Spanish in my blood and dream in Spanish. That has given me the ability and desire to study other languages and learn about other cultures. It is a gift that allows me to connect with more diverse patrons and promote and represent Latinos in my community service and work outside Henrico County. Because I have a seat at the table, I try to fight for more representation to offer those who don’t have voices more visibility. 

Names are really important and have a power. I always introduce myself pronouncing my name the way my family and I pronounce it, i.e. the correct way, and not the Americanized and Anglicized way. Cristina is spelled without an ‘h’ because if you put an ‘h’ in it, it does not mean anything in Spanish.  

I teach people the meaning of my name. It comes from the Greek for Messiah or Annointed One. My mother’s surname, Dominguez, means ‘son of Domingo’ and it comes from the Latin for Lord. My father’s surname, Ramirez, means son of Ramon. It is Germanic in origin and means wise counsel. Explaining the meaning of my name shows others how complex and layered our backgrounds are. 

This opens up a deeper conversation for those of the majority culture and language to understand that there are other ways of saying things, doing things and seeing the world. It also affords other minorities an opportunity to feel heard and seen. 

Please tell us about your family heritage. 

My mother is from Segovia, Spain and my father is Mexican-American from Bishop, Texas. I grew up speaking, listening to and understanding two different Spanish dialects and in two Latino cultures. We only spoke Spanish at home and that gave me the strength of language in both English and Spanish as I am a native speaker of both. My mother is from a small town in Castilla Y Leon which started out as a Celtic settlement, then a Roman military fort, then controlled by numerous other groups and communities, such as the Visigoths, Muslims and Jews. I have a unique heritage, as my father is also descended from the Sefardi Jews that left Spain after the Inquisition and moved to Nuevo Leon, Mexico. From the intermarriage and mixing of other Spaniards, Mexican indigenous communities, my father’s heritage gifted me being part of Native America. 

Please share how you came to the county, your agency/role and what you value about being with the county.  

I moved to Richmond, Virginia for a job after I finished my MLS (Master in Library Science) degree from Catholic University in D.C. I have been a professional librarian since 2005 and transitioned from academic bibliographer to public library manager. I have been working with Henrico County since 2016 and was the branch manager of the Sandston Library and then the assistant area library manager of the Varina Area Library. Henrico County offers a lot of resources, amazing buildings and spaces, and has the customer service orientation to serve its residents with excellent services. 

Firefighter Octavio McNally, Division of Fire, Station 19

Please share something that is meaningful to you about your Hispanic heritage

We are all connected through music. I love music, such as salsa, bachata and reggaeton! When you add the music with authentic food and a reunion of family and friends, I am in paradise.   

Please tell us about your family heritage. 

I was born in Miami, Florida, son to a Cuban father, Orestes, and a Nicaraguense mother, Esperanza. My name is Octavio (pronounced Ohk-TAH-vee-oh), and many can’t pronounce it how my parents did all my life, but that’s OK. I always try and teach those who are interested in learning, but most fail, and that’s OK too because we always get a good laugh out of it. I am known throughout the Division of Fire as O.C. I am a proud Hispanic-American, as I was born in the United States, son of Latinos who immigrated to Florida in the ’80s to make a better life for themselves and our family.   

Please share how you came to the county, your agency/role and what you value about being with the county.  

In 2008, many changes were occurring in my life. I discovered a passion for the fire service, and the economy had taken a turn for the worst. Luckily, I had grown close to a friend who had nothing but great things to say about Henrico and Hanover Fire; she had been rescued during a vehicle accident by Henrico Fire Station 5 personnel. I decided to take a chance, and move my family to Henrico County, becoming a volunteer with Hanover County Fire Station 6 and [beginning] my journey in becoming a paid firefighter with Henrico County. Currently, I serve as a firefighter paramedic with Henrico County, and I have been employed for over 10 years. I value Henrico County’s policy when it comes to not charging for medical transport, their support in me furthering my education and the support I receive in maintaining certifications needed to better perform my duties. 

Luanda Fiscella, Community Revitalization

Please share something that is meaningful to you about your Hispanic heritage

It is traditions like food and storytelling that are significant in carving out Nicaraguan culture while living in Virginia. It is the mint and raisins in our nacatamales, the way you fold the beans into the rice when you make gallo pinto. It is the celebration of patron saints like Santo Domingo de Guzman, where music and procession fill the air.   

Please tell us about your family heritage.  

My father is from Tidewater Virginia, and my mother from Managua, Nicaragua.  

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and has 40 volcanoes that are usually active. My favorite one is Momotombo.  

I like the term “hyphenated identity.” “Bicultural” has always felt like a quantifiable breakdown of culture that make up a person. But my experience is the intersection of both and then more. I epitomize everything as a Nicaraguan-American that is about family, food, music, art, community, pain and appreciation. 

Please share how you came to the county, your agency/role and what you value about being with the county.  

I’m returning to the county as the housing specialist in the Department of Community Revitalization. My role is to work with our existing agencies and stakeholders to further identify areas where we can improve and provide quality, affordable housing to Henrico residents. The county has provided me with opportunity to learn and grow, but above all it has expanded my definition of community, my sense of family.

 
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