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National Hispanic Heritage Month: What it Means to Me

National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15,  celebrates the history, cultures and contributions of Hispanics in the United States.




by Tiodis Francisco

Amerifirst Loan Officer, 

Winter Park, Florida


National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15th - October 15th. At first glance, it seems a bit odd to start an observance in the middle of a month, but it makes sense to those that celebrate it. The celebration begins mid-month due to the days of independence that fall within this 30-day period.


I am a first-generation American. My father is Galician, and my mother was born in the Dominican Republic. My heritage has always influenced the culture in my home. My parents, sisters, and I all speak Spanish when we are together. We celebrate Three Kings’ Day with a bale of hay and every New Year we make sure to have 12 grapes for the moment the ball drops. Those are things that most Hispanic families do, but I’ve never officially celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month. 


The reason I believe that my family has never celebrated is mostly likely since not all Hispanic heritage is our heritage. My father and I wear our kilts for Spanish holidays that pertain to us since Galicia is a Celtic nation. We wear our blue tartans for family gatherings as well.

Tobia and dadMy father and I celebrating a holiday with our Galician kilts


A Hispanic person is someone who comes from or is a descendant of a Spanish-speaking country. These include 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.


There can be confusion about the difference between the Hispanic and Latino heritage, including the term "Spanish" to refer to individuals. Here are the general rules of thumb:

  • Latino/Latina heritage has the broadest definition in the US to include anyone included in the Latin American descent, including Mexico, Central and South America, and some of the islands of the Caribbean.
  • Hispanic is a less broad term used to describe people that come from a country that speaks Spanish (other than the countries that speak Portuguese or other Romance languages). 
  • Someone who is Spanish is actually from Spain.

Diverse countries of origin and influences 


As you can see, Hispanics come from different countries, continents, and territories, all with their own unique culture and identity. For example, Peru incorporates the Inca culture, Mexico has Aztecan history, and many of the Caribbean countries have African ties to show the melting pot that can be Central and South America. The Dominican Republic had a Jewish population for some time as it was one of the few countries that would accept Jewish people during World War II. Argentina is known to have a large Italian demographic, Spain has four different major dialects, and the list goes on. There are more differences between these countries then similarities, but what brings the Hispanic community together is their common language.


"Even though Hispanics are rooted by the same language, we can actually be very different. I encourage you to embrace the difference.

-Tiodis Francisco


Most of these countries use the Castilian Spanish dialect, with only Spain recognizing the other dialects as official to the Spanish language. Even though a Mexican person speaks the same dialect as an Argentinian, they speak the language with vast differences. The equivalent would be hearing English spoken by a Northern Irish person and a person from South Africa. They both speak English and can understand each other when speaking, but rarely are they grouped together as a recognized joint community.


That is what makes the Hispanic community unique. I am grouped with others who speak the same language, and I can instantly relate to another person with vast cultural differences in this country.


Tobia Realtor Partners (2)I enjoy spending time with my realtor partners (front row, seated, far right in glasses).



Building relationships


I have worked in the Winter Park, Florida branch as a loan officer for three years. Orlando has a large Hispanic population that continues to grow, and most of the borrowers that I work with are Spanish-speaking. When I speak with a new Hispanic client, I sense how they instantly feel at ease when they learn that I also speak Spanish. They are so happy to talk in their native tongue, and it usually makes the home loan process a lot easier. No matter which country they’re from, the ability to communicate in the same language creates a true feeling of trust. 


It doesn't matter how different someone's background is when you can connect instantly through a shared language. And I love that!



What it can mean to you


National Hispanic Heritage Month was created and enacted to celebrate Hispanics in the United States. It is a great time to learn more about our individual cultures, try Hispanic food, learn about holiday traditions, or experience the traditional music or dances of each culture.


For example, my parents never ate a taco or burrito before coming to the United States as those dishes aren’t delicacies of their nations. My father’s national known dish is Paella, and my mother’s National cuisine would most likely be a Spanish stew/soup called Sancocho. I encourage you to also learn of the influential Hispanic figures in American history.


Biggest takeaway


I hope the most important thing you learn from my story is that even though Hispanics are rooted by the same language, we can actually be very different. I encourage you to embrace the difference.


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