Each year, September 15 to October 15 is recognized as National Hispanic Heritage Month (NHHM) – a time to honor and acknowledge the rich culture and history of the Hispanic and Latino populations in America and the valuable contributions they’ve made to our communities.
As we continue uplifting and honoring this monthlong celebration, we asked members of NLC’s Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO) Constituency Group to share how their culture and background have impacted their experience in local office, as well as their inspiration behind running for office, who they consider as their role model, and to highlight any exciting events occurring in their community for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Thank you to all the members that participated and provided responses, including:
- Mayor Rocio Treminio-Lopez, Brentwood, MD
- Councilmember Corina Lopez, San Leandro, CA
- Vice Mayor Jaime Patiño, Union City, CA
- Councilmember Alejandro Puy, Salt Lake City, UT
- Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Guzman, Sunrise, FL
- Councilmember David Luna, Mesa, AZ
- Councilmember Victoria Petro-Eschler, Salt Lake City, UT
- Councilmember Roberto Escobedo, Nyssa, OR
- Councilmember Jennifer Torres-O’Callaghan, Lathrop, CA
- Councilmember Ana Valdemoros, Salt Lake City, UT
- Councilmember Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia, San Antonio, TX
These are their responses:
What Inspired You to Run for Office?
Mayor Rocio Treminio-Lopez: Represent the Hispanic community and create diversity and inclusive awareness of the Latino Contribution to our society.
Councilmember Corina Lopez: I wanted to be the first from the Hispanic/Latinx community to serve on the Council. I was motivated and still am motivated to provide a better quality of life for all, especially those that do not know how to navigate politics. I term out this year.
Vice Mayor Jaime Patiño: I wanted to give back to my community, my hometown, that has given me so much over the years. I had already helped my community by being on the Human Relations Commission and being on the Board of Directors of a local non-profit Community Health Center. I wanted to do more, so I ran for City Council. It has been a great experience!
Councilmember Alejandro Puy: Because I’m a new American (I got naturalized in 2020), I felt my voice was needed at the table. Knowing my district is majority-minority, and I would have been the first Latino elected to this district.
Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Guzman: I was inspired to run for commission after many years of community engagement and advocacy. As a woman raising my children in our city, I felt it was important to have a woman’s voice, a different perspective, and a focus on our families moving forward. As a recipient of many programs and services offered as a longtime resident, I am proud to be able to serve and give back to my constituents tenfold!
Councilmember David Luna: I have always wanted to give back to the community and running for office was my opportunity to perform a public service to the City of Mesa as an elected official.
Councilmember Victoria Petro-Eschler: I live in a historically disenfranchised community – the only place in the entire state where you can create majority-minority districts. As I looked around, I realized there were great intentions from our city, but the impacts didn’t align. I realized that, through education and experience, I was uniquely suited to step into that gap and improve outcomes for all of us – so I did.
Councilmember Roberto Escobedo: To be the voice for the people who are too scared to have a voice because of their status or color and to try and make a difference in my little community!
Councilmember Jennifer Torres-O’Callaghan: I ran for office because our students needed lighted crosswalks in our community, and no one was listening to the families. I knew I could make a difference, so I ran. Since I joined City Council, I am proud to say the city has added two lighted crosswalks near our schools. I am proud to be serving my second term on Council and to have made many safety improvements for our community, including drafting, and helping to pass an ordinance prohibiting cellular device use in the crosswalks near our schools and adding safety cameras in our local parks. To those feeling ignored or put aside, I say run and make a seat at the table. You can make a big difference.
Councilmember Ana Valdemoros: I had been involved with the city for many years in different capacities public, nonprofit, and private sectors. I believed that I could be a significant, diverse, and experienced voice that was missing in the room where decisions were being made. Initially, I went for the appointment to replace a former Councilmember and was given the position for a year. After that, I went on to run for election, and my district’s electorate trusted me enough to elect me to serve them for four more years. This made me the first Hispanic elected Councilmember in the history of the Salt Lake City Council. Talk about the American Dream. I am super humbled by this experience.
Councilmember Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia: As someone who grew up in a Spanish-speaking household with parents who only completed the first and second grades in Mexico, I know first-hand the challenges some families face in the community I now represent; as the District 4 Representative to the San Antonio City Council. My parents instilled in me a love for learning, and I am grateful for all that they sacrificed in order to provide me with the opportunities to get a formal education and achieve success. The community where I grew up and still call home is full of residents who, like my parents, are proud of their heritage and embrace the cultural legacy of the different groups that have shaped San Antonio. My parents, neighbors, teachers, peers, mentors, and all those who call Southwest San Antonio home are the people who inspire me and the reason why I decided to run for office. They share my passion for our community, and together we work to find solutions for the betterment of the neighborhoods we call home.
How Has Your Culture and Background Impacted Your Experience in Local Office?
Mayor Rocio Treminio-Lopez: I have been working to enhance our cultural roots, making people understand our community.
Councilmember Corina Lopez: I wear my identity on my sleeve. My lens makes me see the community as it is.
Vice Mayor Jaime Patiño: I came from humble beginnings and was raised by my grandparents after my mom died when I was ten. I still live in the barrio that I was raised in. I am also raising my 17-year-old daughter here as a single father. I walk my barrio every day, talking to neighbors, friends, and primos. They are why I do what I do and are an inspiration.
Councilmember Alejandro Puy: Latinos know what hard work is, and we know that we need to work twice as hard to be noticed. I worked hard to connect with my neighbors, and it paid off.
Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Guzman: Well, it wasn’t until I decided to run that I found out that there had never been a Hispanic woman to run or win a seat in our city. I am honored to represent the community.
Councilmember David Luna: As the first Latino elected official in the City of Mesa, I made history by running for office and getting elected as a City Councilmember. I am glad to be able to share my perspective as a Hispanic man and to present a viewpoint that had never been considered in the past. This has served to enrich our cultural heritage and bring to light issues that had not been acknowledged for many years. The Latinx community has now been afforded the opportunity to celebrate who they are as people through cultural activities, such as Día de Los Muertos, and have been empowered to create positive change.
Councilmember Victoria Petro-Eschler: I am the first in my family to go to college, and the realization of the American Dream for so many family members. I know where the gaps are in our system since I’m new to it, and it’s not designed to work for me. I bring that awareness to my work, combining it with the love for this country my immigrant family gave me. Now, I can help optimize and fix things so that we are prepared for 21st-century challenges.
Councilmember Roberto Escobedo: I use my voice to speak for the Mexican ladies I work next to at the onion shed, telling me about the experiences they’ve had living in my community and being treated differently because of color or language barriers.
Councilmember Jennifer Torres-O’Callaghan: I come from a family with a strong female work ethic. Both my grandmothers held jobs. If something needed to be done, they worked and figured it out. Service has always been a core value in my family and part of our Catholic faith. Giving back and helping lift up those in need. These values are part of me, and I bring that lens to my role as a councilwoman. I listen, I do the work, I lead, I mentor, and I try to make a positive difference every day.
Councilmember Ana Valdemoros: My heritage has opened so many doors. I bring parts of my culture and my life experiences while growing up in Argentina through an open dialogue about my immigrant experience. As immigrants, we all have such different stories and perspectives. It has been so fulfilling to see so many others willing to listen and adjust to make our city more inclusive.
Councilmember Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia: I am fortunate to have the opportunity to represent a community with a majority of residents who identify as Hispanic in my hometown, which is a majority-minority major city and the seventh largest city in the country. I serve on the Board of Directors for Visit San Antonio, our local tourism organization, and through this role, I have the opportunity to ensure the voices of local arts and culture organizations are included in shaping the way we market our city to the rest of the world. I also serve as a liaison to Europe, including the Canary Islands, which is where the first settlers of San Antonio originated, and I’ve worked closely with the Canary Island Descendants Association to showcase our city’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. I’ve also worked closely with the Consul General of Mexico to ensure that our city continues to strengthen its ties to Mexico and celebrate the cultural ties that bind us through celebrations like Diez y Sies and other initiatives that empower residents to embrace their heritage. I am also proud to support the Mexican American Civil Rights Institute, the premier national organization dedicated to chronicling and advancing the Mexican American community’s civil rights efforts in the U.S., which was founded in San Antonio.
Who Would You Consider To Be Your Role Model?
Mayor Rocio Treminio-Lopez: Empowering youth to run for office and diversify our local and state offices. Education in public policy and how it impacts our daily lives.
Councilmember Corina Lopez: Dolores Huerta
Vice Mayor Jaime Patiño: Cesar Chavez was one of my role models growing up. I actually got to meet him when I was a kid back in the late 70s when he came to our city to back the nursery workers that were on strike. I have had many other role models in my life, like my grandparents, teachers, and other family members. But Chavez is the one that most people would know.
Councilmember Alejandro Puy: Rebecca Chauvez-Houck, Former Stat Rep, Silvia Castro, Suazo Center, Sonia Sotomayor, Celia Cruz.
Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Guzman: there are so many iconic men and women to look up after. I am fascinated by the Obamas. Their level of class and philanthropy is second to none! On a more local level, I am inspired daily by fellow strong women who continue to advocate for a better life for all.
Councilmember David Luna: I would consider Mr. Raul Castro as a role model. He was a former governor of Arizona who was born in Mexico and became quite successful in our state. He was also raised in a border community just the way I was. He also attended state universities and became an attorney during the time when it was difficult for a Latino to have a successful educational career.
Councilmember Victoria Petro-Eschler: Too many people to count – but State Representative Rebecca Chavez Houck from Salt Lake City, Utah, paved the way and then held my hand as I walked down it to become the first Latina elected from my district.
Councilmember Roberto Escobedo: My mommy up in the sky! And my grandma and Grandpa Valero.
Councilmember Jennifer Torres-O’Callaghan: Sonia Sotomayor. She is strong, educated, and fierce in her votes for justice reform and the rights of the historically oppressed: be it race, ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, or women’s rights — she is a champion of rights.
Councilmember Ana Valdemoros: I like those role models who are moderate and strive for fairness. I often think of the late Justice Ginsburg.
Councilmember Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia: My role models are my parents, who taught me the importance of family and supported me as I worked to obtain a doctorate. As a single mother, I value the wisdom they share and the love they have for my son. They inspire me every day to be the best version of myself, and I am proud to call them my parents.
Are There Any Exciting Events Occurring in Your Community for Hispanic Heritage Month?
Mayor Rocio Treminio-Lopez: I just celebrated the first Hispanic Heritage Month in Brentwood in 100 years of its incorporation. I was able to recognize one of the first Latino Families to live in our town for more than 50 years.
Councilmember Corina Lopez: I was recognized by my city as being the first. I was also recently recognized by the Cal Cities Latino Caucus for my work on its Board.
Vice Mayor Jaime Patiño: We have an art exhibit that opened this past Friday. It will be running until the middle of next month. It has artwork from local artists, and it promotes the Latino Heritage. Please stop by Studio 11 if you are in town!
Councilmember Alejandro Puy: My community is full of energy, Salsa y Reggaeton. Lots of events from Corner Block Parties to events at the river and much more.
Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Guzman: On October 21st, we have a Salsa Band for our first Tunes and Trucks Concert series of the year! Sunrise Amphitheater at 7 pm. Including Latin Food Trucks!
Councilmember David Luna: During the month of October, the City of Mesa has a Hispanic cultural heritage celebration called Día De Los Muertos. It is a cultural festival that is widely celebrated, to the extent that last year we had 30,000 people attend this celebration.
Councilmember Victoria Petro-Eschler: So many! My personal focus is on making sure the businesses and nonprofits, and organizations that call our community home are highlighted!
Councilmember Roberto Escobedo: Nope, nothing happens in my community, and all the Hispanic people in this community are more than likely working late hours 6 to 7 days a week through the harvest, which leaves them with no time.
Councilmember Jennifer Torres-O’Callaghan: San Joaquin Delta College is hosting events throughout the month for the community as part of celebrating Latinx Heritage month. The Mexican Heritage Center is also hosting an art exhibit, and the Children’s Museum of Stockton hosted a “Fall Fiesta” night celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
Councilmember Ana Valdemoros: We have several Hispanic Heritage month festivals in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah this year. It seems like every year, more people are paying attention, and they keep popping up. It warms my heart to see a renewed interest in Hispanic culture by the overall community, and we are taking our place in Salt Lake City.
Councilmember Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia: Several organizations in the city are hosting a series of events in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. The San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a lineup of unique events to honor Hispanic and Latino communities’ culture, history, and contributions. Hispanic Heritage Month takes place each year from September 15 through October 15, and SAPL programs celebrating the observance begin on Monday, September 12. Programs will feature film screenings, cooking classes, author events, and more. The selection of programs, events, activities, books, and other items aims to encourage San Antonians to not only celebrate these rich and diverse cultures for a month out of the year but to recognize and connect with the deep roots of Hispanic and Latino culture within our city year-round.
Fiestas Patrias San Antonio is a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the commemoration of Mexican Independence Day, September 16. It was on this day in 1810 that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla initiated the fight for freedom as he made a grito (cry), which sparked the beginning of Mexico’s battle for Independence from Spain. A sample of 2022 Fiestas Patrias, San Antonio events, include:
- September 24: Diez y Seis Mariachi Festival at the Arneson River Theater
- October 7: Symposium on Folklorico Dance in Chicano Communities
- October 8: Celebrando Tradiciones
- October 12: Viva Mi Cultura
- October 15: 5th Annual Fiesta Alegria
The City’s Department of Arts and Culture is also partnering with local artists and organizations for events and exhibits. Other organizations hosting events for Hispanic Heritage Month include the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mexican American Civil Rights Institute, AARP Texas, land several local institutions of higher education.
Learn more about NLC’s Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO) Constituency Group and how you can become a member. Membership is complimentary to local elected officials from NLC member cities.