September 15 to October 15 we celebrate the histories of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Starting the month on Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. Also, Dia de la Raza, a celebration of the African, Spaniard and indigenous ancestors in the New World, is celebrated on Oct. 12.
We are Called to build communities of equity and inclusivity. And, as we often look back on our own heritage and the work we do to advance health equity and help heal anyone who might need us, we asked many of our Hispanic, Latino and Latina leaders and colleagues what about their own heritage and their own family makes them most proud?
- Andy Navarro: Vice President of Mission Integration, CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System
“I am one of 11 children, who are first-generation Americans. My parents believed that in America anything was possible for those who had faith and worked hard. Our parents gave us the most important things: a strong work ethic, a loving family, faith in God, and belief in education. They had no formal education, didn’t speak or read English, they inspired us with their generosity, responsibility, perseverance, and prayerfulness. I have been blessed beyond anything I dreamed. The American dream is still alive and well if you have the “ganas”!”
- Becky Rios: Chief Financial Officer, CHRISTUS Spohn Health System
“Family plays an important role in our lives, no matter what background and culture you come from. They help you grow and develop into who you are, who you want to be, and how you want to be. My mother was one of eight children who by the grace of God was able to attend college and begin her career in healthcare as a nurse. Growing up in a large family had its challenges but it taught her to be patient, humble and thankful with less. The determination that I saw in her and the values she instilled in me is what inspired me to pursue my career. More importantly, it is those same values that I continue to instill in my own children. I am blessed to have a loving and supportive family…. I couldn’t ask for more!!!”
- Cynthia A. Garcia, RN Lead, Pediatric Forensic Nursing Department at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
“My mom and dad used to tell us stories about when they would migrate to Michigan to work in the fields picking cherries or to work in the pickle sheds. I would be so fascinated by their stories and how this migration to another state would happen yearly and all their family members would travel up north together. The long, demanding days of fieldwork would provide minimal earnings, but they learned to survive regardless of the circumstances. As a daughter of migrant farmworkers, I learned the importance of having a strong work ethic and the value of education. My mom used to tell me I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as I dreamed big and worked hard. I have been a Registered Nurse for 19 years because of the strong values instilled in me by my parents. I am proud to be a Latina!”
- Esmeralda “Mela” Perez, Director, Community Services at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa.
“As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant father and a mother who came from a long line of farmers, I am proud of being a 1st generation Bachelor and Masters college graduate. Make no mistake my life has not been one of privilege, at a very young age I was expected to get up early; commute to Lytle, Texas; work the fields and pick the crops. Farming was part of our culture and heritage – until this year – when we sold our last 10 acres to pay for the care of my resilient 97-year-old mom. My parents taught us to embrace our roots and become hard-working citizens of our community – with an eye to help those less fortunate. I have dedicated my whole life to caring and sharing with those who are in need of a better quality of life. Through the years, I have been proud to serve the underserved population in my community as a cultivator, implementer, fundraiser, navigator, connector, mentor, communicator, and educator in English and Spanish.”
- Paul Trevino: Chief Executive Officer & President, CHRISTUS Southeast Texas and Chief Executive Officer, CHRISTUS Ochsner Southwest Louisiana
“What makes me proud of my family are the lessons of hard work, integrity and compassion that I was taught early in my life. My parents always stressed the value of being a leader and that there were no limits on what I could do. They also emphasized the power of education and how it equalized the playing field by creating endless opportunities for success. The most important thing I am most proud of regarding my family was not only did they give me great counsel but they lived out the values they talked so much about as a way to have the most fulfilling life possible by working hard and thanking God continually for all the blessings we received. “
- Gabriela Saenz, J.D.: Senior Vice President, Corporate Services; CHRISTUS Health
“My success in my personal and professional life is a product of the values that were instilled in me by my family. Growing up, my parents were very active in the community advocating for social justice causes. As a child, I didn’t fully understand the impact of it. At the time, this just meant that I wasn’t allowed to eat grapes (“Uvas No” farmworkers movement), we would boycott buying from certain stores (too many to name), or weekends meant block walking for different political candidates or efforts. As I got older, I learned the value of the time that they (and many others) spent advocating to allow for my generation and others to have representation. To my parents and all of those pioneers that paved the way, I am proud and grateful for where we are today, especially as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.”
- Jose M. Zapatero, M.D., MBA: Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs, CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Health System
“My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as political refugees in 1966. They came to this country to provide a better future for their family, but felt it was important to give back and find ways to help others in their new community. I’m proud of their work and the values of servant leadership, diversity, and inclusion that they taught to my family.”
- Olga Solis, Patient Access/Admitting Director at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa- San Marcos
“My family migrated from Mexico in 1967. My parents adjusted to living in the U.S. while raising six children (2 boys and 4 girls). It wasn’t easy growing up with Spanish-speaking parents and attending English-speaking schools. My parents were adamant about us attending school, playing sports, and playing musical instruments. They knew that these attributes would help shape our lives as we transitioned into adulthood. Although those standards were difficult to understand at that time, I’m grateful my parents and their parents had these expectations, as that helped shape the person I’ve become today. I’m proud of both my parents for learning the English language to become US Citizens. Now my hope is to help others realize their dreams and inspire others to do their best.”
Chef Michael Chapoy, CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital
Chef Mike Chapoy is a favorite colleague among the team at CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini. A group of Associates nominated Chef Chapoy as someone who needed to be highlighted during Hispanic Heritage Month. “He serves up some delicious dishes for us. Mike has been named an Aramark Impacto Hispanic Heritage Month 30/30 Honoree this year! His culinary talent is also being featured in the Aramark Chef Spotlight program with the feature of his dish, The Tamale Torta.“
In Mike’s words, “The Tamale Torta is a modern take of a deconstructed tamale. It is made of pulled pork with tamale spices, shredded mozzarella cheese, and fresh pico de gallo on a bolillo roll.”
- Richard Morin, MBA, BSN, RN, CNOR: President, CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Kleberg & Alice
“My family has always been hard-working and has shown loyalty and dedication to employers for many years. My family has also shown great resiliency and strength through faith, family and prayer. My wife, Monica, and sons, Sean and Christian, are service driven and have volunteered in multiple COVID19 vaccine events and church services.”
- Lawrence Menache, MD Radiation Oncologist CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini
“The most important things that make me proud to be of Spanish and Cuban origin is a sense of family, love, and acceptance with a strong emphasis on education. Our heritage is one of displacements over several generations but, the above qualities have always allowed us to persevere no matter what part of the world we find ourselves.”
- Tiffany Capeles, FACHE: System Director, Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; CHRISTUS Health
“My Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage is an area of great pride for me. They allow me to blend the rich history of my Afro-Caribbean culture, with that of my indigenous ancestors who enacted a spirit of persistence and resilience through laughter.
A cultural tradition that I enjoy is the “parrandas” that take place during the Christmas holiday season. It is a tradition that consists of visiting neighbors, family and friends, after dark, and singing outside their home, until they open their door. The household being serenaded provides an appetizer/meal, and joins along in the ‘sing-a-long-train”, to visit the next house. This continues, deep into the night, and by early morning the crowd is so large, and everyone is so stuffed, that they cannot continue. At this point, everyone “calls it a night”, until the next “parranda” is initiated and/or someone shows up at your door! I love this holiday tradition, it brings such joy, music, laughter, and community.”
- Ben Benitez III: Vice President of Clinical Operations, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
“My family is rooted in this area of Texas prior to its date of statehood. It makes me proud knowing that each generation has worked very hard to make sure the future generation has a better opportunity. I am pleased to still be in this area of Texas and celebrate this heritage.”
This year CHRISTUS Health celebrates the thousands of Hispanic and Latin American CHRISTUS Associates who are delivering exceptional and compassionate care that advances health equity and inclusion for all those we are privileged to serve.
To learn more about CHRISTUS Health’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives visit: