Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when Americans all over the country are joining together to recognize the many contributions made by Hispanic Americans in the American culture and society. In my work as U.S. diplomat, I reflect on the contributions of Hispanic Americans. This year’s celebration is particularly significant, since we are commemorating 50 years of Hispanic Heritage Month.My mother, a Colombian immigrant from Colombia, was a young boy when I was born in Connecticut fifty years ago. She established Casa Otonal, a senior housing program for Spanish-speaking seniors, and the state’s first Spanish speaking residential drug rehabilitation center for Hispanics.
My career has been devoted to promoting U.S. interests, building relationships and solving problems in the Western Hemisphere. This region is very dear to me. It is an honor to be a senior-level Hispanic American U.S. diplomat. The Department’s Hispanic workforce has grown from 4 percent to 7 percent since 2000. While there is still much to do, we are making good progress. Secretary Pompeo reiterated his Department’s commitment in expanding diversity and increasing the number of Hispanic Americans serving in the civil service and foreign service at a Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies’ Hispanic Heritage Month celebration earlier today. You should read more about the amazing work that my fellow Hispanic American diplomats do around the world.
Our diverse cultures and communities make our nation stronger. So is our foreign policy. This is not only about the role of Hispanic American diplomats in the region, but also the contributions made by Hispanic Americans throughout the country to the advancement and attainment of U.S. development goals and policy. Trump declared in his 2018 Proclamation of Hispanic Heritage Month that “Hispanic Americans strengthen our relationship with our Latin American neighbours as we work to boost liberty in the region, achieve free and fair trading with our regional partners” Hispanic Americans are uniquely positioned to contribute to these countries development through investment, entrepreneurial connections, volunteerism and philanthropy, including the National Park Service’s Latino Heritage Projects.
As someone in my position, I’ve seen their impact firsthand. The diaspora has been leading the response to the hurricanes in the Caribbean, and the earthquake in Mexico in the last year. This is in addition to the ongoing political crises in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. For example, as the U.S. government has repeatedly called on the Ortega government to end the violence perpetrated by government-controlled police and parapolice forces in the recent months, Nicaraguan Americans have lent their voices to the cause. A small group of Nicaraguan Americans living in Miami created the Nicaraguan American Center for Democracy earlier this year to rally support for Nicaraguans fighting for freedom from the Ortega government.
Our close family ties, shared history and common values allow the United States and other countries in the region work together to promote security, prosperity and democracy for all citizens of the hemisphere. The power of these relationships was evident at the UN General Assembly where hemispheric leaders met in order to discuss regional efforts to support Venezuelan citizens as they restore democracy and respond to the humanitarian crisis. We celebrated a significant regional achievement last week when Canada and the United States came to an agreement on the United States-Mexico Canada Agreement. The United States and Mexico hosted the second Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, October 11-12, here in Washington. We discussed how we can work together to address security and governance issues, as well as the challenges of prosperity and security.
We are determined to continue working with all stakeholders, including those in the diaspora, to disrupt transnational criminal networks and spur investment and innovation. Let us take a moment to recognize the tremendous progress we–the Hispanic Community–have made in the country, region, and world. And the great things that we will continue to do together.