| The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month with an event in which medical residents and faculty members from the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine describes the Spanish-speaking nations and territories where they grew up.
The UAMS Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DDEI) Diversity and Inclusion Engagement Subcommittee hosted the virtual event, Unidos: Inclusiveness for a UAMS stronger.
Kazandra Wilson, Ed.D., attorney and community engagement coordinator for DDEI’s Pathways Academy, moderated the event. Wilson, who is originally from Mexico City and has lived in Arkansas for 10 years, noted that more than 250,000 Arkansans identified as Hispanic in the 2020 census.
“According to trends and projections, this number will only continue to increase,” she said. “So it seems natural that agencies and institutions like UAMS intend to provide language services and recruit students and employees from minority groups.”
Diorella Lopez Gonzalez, a third-year resident in the family medicine program, showed off a series of photos depicting her hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico. She said Puerto Rico was influenced by the American Indians, Spaniards and Africans who lived there, which led to diversity not only on the island but also within her family.
“I think it’s just beautiful to see all of this in a family,” Lopez Gonzalez said.
German Corrales, a first-year resident, grew up in Cordoba, Argentina, and has lived in the United States for nearly four years. Corrales highlighted Argentina’s biodiversity, with different regions featuring jungles, snowy landscapes, mountains or lakes.
The country is also diverse in its population, he said. Many immigrants arrived from Italy, Spain and Germany after World War II, and Argentine culture reflects these influences, especially in its cuisine.
Corrales also talked about the Argentine asado, a gathering of friends and family that resembles an American barbecue. “It’s not about food or drink; it’s more about the moment,” he said. “We are very passionate people and we love spending time with our friends and family.”
First-year resident Viridiana Saenz said she lived in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico until she was 18, when she crossed the border to El Paso, Texas to continue her education. . Saenz said she tells people she’s “from the frontier,” noting that while the region is split between Mexico and the United States, “it’s really just one big community”.
Saenz said Mexican culture is notable for its unique celebrations, including Independence Day on September 16 and el Dia de Muertos, a holiday in which the living pay their respects to those who have passed away. “There is always something important happening for us,” she says.
“Growing up in Mexico is a great pride, and I’m very honored to represent it,” Saenz said.
Monica Ferrero, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, grew up in Cali, Colombia. Ferrero said Colombia’s location on the equator meant it didn’t experience seasonal differences in weather, so moving to the United States marked a big change.
She said salsa dancing is an important part of Colombian culture, especially in Cali. Every December, Cali hosts a day-long event in which members of the area’s salsa schools dance through several miles of city streets.
Ferrero said Colombians can be characterized by their desire to be happy, to spend as much time as possible with family and friends, and to enjoy those reunions with food and dancing.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is recognized annually from September 15 through October 15. It began as Hispanic Heritage Week, instituted by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. President Ronald Reagan expanded it in 1988 to cover a 30-day period that includes birthdays. the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as the independence celebrations of Mexico and Chile.
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