6 Local Latinx Leaders Share What Hispanic Heritage Month Means To Them

Each 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 spans 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 a vibrant and growing Hispanic American culture. According to the last census, Latinx individuals comprise approximately 10 percent of Cleveland’s population, 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:

Lalo Rodriguez
Owner, Café Social Latinoamericano at Las Tienditas del Mercado

When I was asked this question, at first, I had to think hard about the answer because I celebrate my Hispanic (Mexican) heritage every day!

And even though I was born in the U.S., I grew up in Mexico in an atmosphere that showcased and taught U.S. college students about past Hispanic cultures as well as the current ones.

Hispanic Heritage Month gives me a chance not only to celebrate my culture, but to celebrate everyone else’s too! Throughout the month, we get the opportunity to educate and share with other people the contribution that the Latino community brings to this country.

As a young entrepreneur, I am proud to be a Latino that can represent the culture, contribute to the local economy and be a voice for others within the community.


Jason Estremera
Associate Director, Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center for Economic Development

This is an opportunity to celebrate Hispanic excellence and to showcase the accomplishments of past and present Hispanic leaders, while inspiring the actions of future Latino leaders.

It is also an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that face our community and to turn those challenges into a call for action.


José Miguel Meléndez
Owner, Meléndez Catering Services, LLC & Spanish American Committee’s Board President

When we celebrate Hispanic Heritage, we celebrate who we are, our family, our ancestors, our culture. It is an opportunity to share the same with the world. In my case, as a Puerto Rican, my ethnicity is a melting pot of traditions from Europe, Africa, and Caribbean natives (also known as Tainos) that have been passed down through many generations. As a chef, I transmit that heritage and influence on the entire world through the food I cook.

As the Board President of the Spanish American Committee, I am committed to welcoming everyone, especially those of Hispanic background that make Cleveland their new home. I help them with their basic needs in order to become a productive citizen and to be a positive influence on society, in general, just like I was given the same opportunity once. Let’s celebrate our family, our ancestors, our culture and traditions. Let’s celebrate us!


Luis Cabrera
Application Systems Analyst, Forest City

Hispanic Heritage Month generally serves as an opportunity to celebrate the richness of the Hispanic culture and its contribution to America. To me, it’s more than a time to reflect on our past achievements. It’s a reminder that we’ve always been part of the American fabric. It’s a call to action to continue to do our best and make a difference in the communities where we live and work.


Alex PaganAlexandra Pagan
Co-Owner, The Old San Juan Jewelers

During Hispanic Heritage month, I reflect back to the sacrifices my parents made for our family. Many people don’t see the perseverance and the courage it takes to move your family to a new country, all on faith, not knowing if you’re making the right move. This month awakens our community and allows us all to come together in celebration to experience a beautiful part of our identities. We are proud to be Latinxs.

My son gets to experience culture and I can see the pipeline from which it was passed onto me. My parents instilled nuestra cultura on my sister and me. Today I can pass down this part of me to the next generation.


Sandra Pagan
Owner, Latin Touch Beauty Salon

For me, Hispanic Heritage month is a time to recognize our culture and our blessings. It is a time to recognize all of the sacrifices and contributions that the Latinx community has made to this nation. We leave our family, friends and culture behind to begin a new life – to reach for the American dream. I am proud to be a Latinx entrepreneur in the great city of Cleveland, but Puerto Rico will always hold a special place in my heart.

This time also allows the next generation of Latinx youth to experience the vibrancy of the many beautiful Latinx cultures that exist and influence our families.

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