Every year from September 15 to October 15, the U.S. celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, highlighting the contributions and the culture of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The celebration runs across two months because September 15 marks the anniversary of independence for five Latin American nations (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), while Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence later in the month and Columbus Day—also known as Día de la Raza—comes in early October.

Hispanic Heritage Month is important in Northeast Ohio because we have vibrant and growing Hispanic American culture. According to the last census, Latinx people make up approximate 10 percent of the population of Cleveland, while Cuyahoga County had the largest total Latinx population in the state as of 2015.

We recently reached out to several Latinx entrepreneurs and community leaders we’ve gotten to know through our work to find out what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them in their own words.

Here’s what they told us:

 

Rene Polin
President & Founder, Balance, Inc.

I always make the connection back to what my father went through as he risked everything to leave Cuba and come to the U.S. The grit, faith, perseverance, sacrifice and hard work he had to put in to build a life in his new country puts any entrepreneurial sacrifices I’ve had to make into perspective. When things get challenging, I simply think about him and I can break through.

As a product designer, I’ve also found that my Latin upbringing allows me to better empathize with others. The family-centered and emotionally-open interactions of our culture are inevitable when we gather. There’s usually no hiding how family members feel about any situation. In my business, where collecting and understanding deep insights to successfully design for an end-user is paramount; this ability to connect gives me quite an advantage.

 

Patty Quiñónez
President & Director of the Board, LATINA, Inc. (Leading and Advocating Together In New Arenas)

As an entrepreneur, I believe Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to shine, reflect and celebrate who we are in our many different cultures and customs while bringing awareness to a plethora of contributions Latinos have made and continue to make on a daily basis that many times get overlooked.

Like women everywhere, Latinas are “stretched” having a sense of priority to family, and faith. Dedicating so much of ourselves to others along with cultural expectations can be challenging, but we are strong. To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is 12 months out of the year.

 

Ana Garcia
Host, The Ana Show

Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to highlight our cultures and our businesses. We are very much about family. Our faith is intertwined in our lives. Our diversity enriches and gives strength to our community. I have interacted with so many Hispanic entrepreneurs here locally. They are ambitious risk takers who are spirited, strategic and have magnetic personalities. They are competitive and they are intelligent. They are amazing people fervently in pursuit of the American dream.

I also think that because we are minority businesses, there is usually a spotlight on us. We are expected to be the best of the best at what we do. It’s not always fair but it’s reality.

But this realization also gives us a competitive edge. It makes us work harder, persevere through adversity and become very resourceful with a never-say-die attitude.

 

Luis Cartagena:
Inclusion Officer, Cuyahoga County

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to not only reflect on the achievements of the past, but to celebrate the hard work that continues today and for the future. It gives us a chance to bring exposure to our culture and highlight the diversity within our community.

As different as we may all be, we all want the same thing as Latinx entrepreneurs—to provide for our families. Whether we immigrated here or are born here, we strive for inclusion in the American dream.

 


To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month and find ways to celebrate in your community, visit these resources.

Gloria Ware
Gloria leads JumpStart’s strategic efforts to create inclusive, high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystems. She brings a wealth of finance and business development expertise to the organization, along with a passion for community engagement.