¡Hola! Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration of the history and culture of Hispanic Communities. This period is from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, and recognizes the contributions and influences of Hispanic Americans on the history, culture and achievements of the United States. Our Hispanic ancestors come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Hi - I'm Lisa!
Growing up Hispanic life was full of love, faith, food, music and large family gatherings… it is a very rich life, and still is that way today.
I grew up in a neighbor predominantly Caucasian with very few Hispanic families. That was a bit hard because I felt so different. I didn’t have a lot of friends who looked like me, which was a struggle. But I was very much a people-person, literally since birth, so I connected to others very easily and enjoyed sharing my culture with others. At the same time I was assimilating to the American way.
My grandparents were a huge part of my life. They did not speak English, so Spanish was my first language. I spoke Spanish about 90% of the time in the home, however I was learning English through my older relatives.
"Growing up it was clear that working hard was something you did with all your heart and soul, whether you were a janitor or CEO of the company, you did it with pride."
In my family, faith and hard work was the foundation. Keeping your faith, walking strong, and being a hard worker was not a choice. Growing up it was clear that working hard was something you did with all your heart and soul, whether you were a janitor or CEO of the company, you did it with pride.
Watching my grandfather and father be such awesome providers really instilled in me a good work ethic and loyalty to the employers I have worked for in my lifetime. My grandmother’s role was another big part that influenced me, she was such a good caregiver and a servant at heart, and she loved on me so much. We had a very special bond. I witnessed that quality in most of the woman in our family. They were good cooks and homemakers who served their husbands and kids before themselves because it was an honor to serve your family. That is in my heart as well, I love to serve others. It brings meaning to my life and makes me feel complete. I credit that to my culture.
The spirit in Hispanic families is a very giving and caring one. Getting together at the dinner table was everything! Our meals were more like a big feast versus a simple meal, but it was a bonding time for us. The atmosphere was always lively. There would be Mexican music playing in the background, and there was always extra relatives or friends present at our house. My friends would always say, “There’s always a party at your house!” But to me it was just a normal family event… I thought everyone’s family lived like that!
"The spirit in Hispanic families is a very giving and caring one."
My husband also comes from a very large family. They had the big dinners and gatherings as well, but they had an added piece. They played a lot of Mexican bingo and cards for entertainment. It was such a large family that doing activities that all of them could be involved was a must.
These are the ways we celebrate our culture and keep our Hispanic roots alive in our own families.
If you are looking to experience Hispanic culture with your family, there are wonderful festivals you can attend. However during COVID-19, it is a bit different. Some festivals have been cancelled, but I encourage you try some of our great authentic Hispanic restaurants, contributing to La Lucha Fund, or shopping at any Hispanic-owned businesses or organizations to help during these difficult times.
A few must-try restaurants that are some of my favorites:
- El Granjero Mexican Grill - 950 Bridge St. NW
- Taco El Cunado - 1024 Bridge St. NW
- La Huasteca - 1811 Plainfield St. NE
- Rincon Criollo Restaurant - 1523 Grandville Ave. SW
You can find more local businesses to support on websites like Experience Grand Rapids and the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Also learning to speak Spanish together as a family would be fun! There are so many wonderful free apps. Duolingo is a great starter.
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About Lisa Puente
Lisa started working in child welfare about 18 years ago at Wedgewood Christian Services in their residential facility as a Youth Treatment Specialist, then moved to a Shift Supervisor. She joined the DABSJ team about 14 years ago, working in the Mentoring and Foster Care Licensing teams. She has always had a passion to serve at-risk children and families in our community.
In her free time she loves to entertain, spend time with family and friends, and enjoys decorating and doing crafts!