Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Actress Cristela Alonzo speaks with a virtual audience during a HECFAA-sponsored panel event in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Oct. 20. Photo by Camelia Valldejuly
Actress Cristela Alonzo speaks with a virtual audience during a HECFAA-sponsored panel event in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Oct. 20. Photo by Camelia Valldejuly

By Camelia Valldejuly and Isabel Romero

Founded in 1982, the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA) is a non-profit organization and Department of State employee affinity group that works to promote the recruitment, retention, and career advancement of Hispanic/Latino employees. HECFAA also promotes a foreign affairs workforce that reflects the diversity of the United States.  

Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) offers a unique opportunity for HECFAA and the Department to celebrate and promote awareness of the diverse histories and cultures of Hispanic/Latino Americans.. In celebration of HHM, HECFAA highlighted the importance of diversity within the Department’s senior ranks and leadership positions through public, virtual events promoting what it means to be a Hispanic/Latino diplomat.

The first event, held on Oct. 8, was a virtual panel with Ambassador Maria Brewer from Embassy Sierra Leone, Ambassador Rebecca Gonzalez from Embassy Lesotho, and Ambassador Nina Fite from Embassy Angola. As three of the five sitting ambassadors of Hispanic or Latin origin, they discussed the importance of mentoring, how diverse teams enhance American diplomacy, and how Foreign and Civil Service employees can manage their careers to reach the senior ranks. 

The second event, co-hosted by the National Museum of American Diplomacy, Oct. 14, featured Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal Ana Escogrima, and Economic Officer Maria Apud, who spoke on the opportunities and challenges for Hispanics/Latinos at the Department. HECFAA sponsored a third event, a virtual panel called “What It Means to Be an American: A Conversation with Rep. Joaquin Castro and Actress Cristela Alonzo,” Oct. 20. Alonzo shared with participants the importance of being authentic and remembering that they are deserving.

“One thing you always have to remember is you are there in the position you are, wherever it may be, not just in this career…you are there because you deserve to be there.” said Alonzo. “You deserve to be there because of who you are. You have to remind yourself what you are. Embracing what you are and using that as your asset. That is going to be important.”

HECFAA also co-sponsored and participated in other Department-hosted panels—one with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and one with Embassy Mexico City—in honor of HHM. 

HECFAA continues to provide a space for the Hispanic/Latino community and allies at the Department to gather and share their experiences and lessons learned. This year, they hope to expand that opportunity through a digital setting and reach even more participants globally.

More information about HECFAA can be found here

Camelia Valldejuly is a program assistant for Western Hemisphere Programs in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Isabel Romero is a desk officer for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

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