Nationwide Hispanic Heritage Month Observance, 2023

Blissful Nationwide Hispanic Heritage Month! This yr’s theme is “Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Energy and Progress in America.”  That theme has made me replicate upon my family’s historical past on this nation and the way far we’ve come.

As lots of , I’m Mexican American and a fifth-generation Arizonan, which implies my household has been in Arizona for the reason that 1700s.  My great-great Nana Eduvijes Fontes was a pioneer girl, who lived by means of onerous occasions throughout the Despair, witnessed battles of the Mexican Revolution, and traveled a whole lot of miles alongside what’s now often called the Arizona-Mexico border serving to information troopers within the Arizona desert. My different great-great Nana operated a meals stand, even promoting as soon as to Francisco “Pancho” Villa, who was a frontrunner within the Mexican Revolution. My household additionally consists of my Tata Albert, who was a veteran and a mechanic for the Metropolis of Phoenix, and my Nana Celia, who raised 11 youngsters together with my mother, Eduvijes. 

Eduvijes Fontes

Eduvijes Fontes

Elevating a big Mexican American household in Phoenix within the Nineteen Fifties and 60s meant dealing with discriminatory indicators like “No Canine or Mexicans.” My mother used inform me tales about peering into downtown division retailer home windows, admiring the gorgeous clothes, however by no means with the ability to go inside. She’d additionally inform me concerning the occasions when the household dressed as much as attend mass within the downtown Basilica. My household was by no means allowed within the upstairs pews—however as a substitute, can be compelled to take a seat and pray within the basement of the church. They have been remoted and hidden from the remainder of the church goers.

Eduviges Fontes in The Daily Arizona Star paper.

Eduviges Fontes in The Each day Arizona Star paper.

Remarkably, and a testomony to the “Prosperity, Energy and Progress in America,” my mom’s daughter now runs the Workplace for Civil Rights on the U.S. Division of Well being & Human Companies—only one technology later. My household’s tales, my roots, and our collective experiences form who I’m, and the work I do with all of you. I’m very happy with my historical past and tradition. I take into consideration my household every single day in our work—what they’ve skilled and overcame, and the way I bought right here. I do know every of you’ve your personal household histories that drive you to advancing the mission of our workplace and civil rights in our nation. I’m ecstatic to have the ability to share mine.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra pictured with OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer and her mother.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra pictured with OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer and her mom.

I’m additionally proud to be a part of an Administration that helps and honors the varied historical past of generations of Latinos, who’ve formed this nation. This month, President Biden signed a proclamation on Nationwide Hispanic Heritage Month to focus on the very important contributions that our colleagues, together with our personal head of HHS, Secretary Xavier Becerra, in addition to greater than 62 million Latinos make within the U.S. This Administration has additionally made fairness a Day One precedence, together with rising Latino enrollment in healthcare by roughly 1 million individuals, offering over 7.6 billion {dollars} in funding for 1400 Group Well being Facilities (CHCs), which predominately serve Latino and communities of shade, and enhancing prescription drug protection and decreasing prices by means of the Inflation Discount Act.

And this month, I participated in a panel titled “Latinas to the Entrance: Dialog concerning the State of Girls’s Well being” on the first-ever HHS Hispanic Well being Summit. Latinas are significantly susceptible within the reproductive well being area, with 6.5 million Latinas now residing within the 26 states which have banned or are prone to ban abortion. I proudly spoke on the actions that HHS has taken to guard reproductive healthcare, and an summary of civil rights protections that Latinas are coated by, and the assets which are made accessible by my workplace. This dialog is essential and wanted available.

Latinas to the Front: Conversation about the State of Women’s Health Panel

Latinas to the Entrance: Dialog concerning the State of Girls’s Well being Panel

The work we’ve performed to enhance the lives of Latinos residing in America makes me proud. I’ll at all times use my household’s historical past as motivation in working with all of you to satisfy the OCR mission. ¡Feliz Mes de la Herencia Hispana!