Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. This year, to honor Hispanic Heritage Month and acknowledge how the Hispanic community has enriched our culture and society, we sat down with Melissa Flores, the senior director of strategy and operations of the Erie Neighborhood House and member of A Better Chicago’s impact council.
Q: What values or cultural traditions do you feel guide you through your personal and professional life? How has being Latinx shaped your story?
A: I am deeply connected to my Latinx identity. I live and lead with it. I always show up as the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents with incredible stories and deep commitments to preserving their own cultural identities, no matter what. Therefore, I always choose to honor this identity in personal and professional spaces. For me, the personal and professional spaces are one and the same. I strive to show up as my full self and carry my ancestors and community’s power to hold me accountable for driving good work forward.
Q: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you, and what ways do you celebrate your culture and traditions during this time?
A: Every year, we dedicate this month, September 15 – October 15, to celebrate and elevate our Latinx community. It is a time to honor all of the people and organizations that dedicate themselves to equity and serve to amplify our voices, experiences, and accomplishments. This work is critical in creating stronger and more positive visibilities. It’s also a time to shine light on the incredible contributions the Latinx community has made for generations.
Q: How can non-Latinx Chicagoans continue to pay homage to the contributions made by the Latinx community?
A: One way to honor the Latinx community’s contributions is to celebrate their accomplishments every day, not just during Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s so important to support Latinx businesses, hire Latinx leaders, especially into key positions, and contribute to organizations that drive equity forward and positively impact the Latinx community.
Q: How are you helping to build a better Chicago?
A: I am working to build a better Chicago by driving equity forward in my city. Every corner of the city is filled with moments where I solidified my identity as a public servant. I am indebted to this city for giving me so much, and I will spend the rest of my life paying it back and paying it forward.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Representation matters! Let’s flood the internet with great stories of Latinx leadership and Latinx excellence! Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!