Richmond, Va. –
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated across the nation every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The 2021 HHM observance theme “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” celebrates Hispanic heritage and reflects on how great our tomorrow can be if we hold onto our resilience and hope. It encourages us to reflect on all past contributions Hispanics made and will continue to make in the future. It is also a reminder that we are stronger together.
DLA Aviation is honored to highlight Hispanic Americans who work daily to provide logistics support to America’s warfighters and other federal customers.
My name is: José Miguel Sánchez López
I am: a chief warrant officer 3 in the U.S. Army serving as a strategic tactical aviation maintenance readiness officer within the Army Customer Facing Division of DLA Aviation’s Customer Operations Directorate.
How long have you worked for DLA? 3 years
What does the 2021 Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Being from the small island of Puerto Rico, “The pearl of the Caribbean,” it means a celebration of our colorful folklore, Latin diversity, and profound labor force contributions in a variety of fields. The Hispanic community has become an essential contributor to today’s nation.
Tell us something unique about your heritage, country of origin or family traditions.
I belong to one of the most interesting, mystique, and talented Caribbean identities. I am a Puerto Rican, a regeneration of a racially mixed culture, erupted from a blended society consisting of native Taino Indians, African slaves, and European conquistadors.. I grew up in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico – a small town historically known for its sugar-cane fields whose name comes from the Taino Chief Guaroca, which means “place or site with water.”
Sunday family reunions were a tradition at my grandparents’ home. No matter how tough our week was, we found ways to lift our spirits. Every weekend my family had something to be happy about, from birthdays to school graduations; simply put, we always had a good excuse to gather with friends, celebrate and do a pig roast.
What misconception about your heritage or country of origin would you like to correct?
One misconception is that Puerto Ricans contribute nothing to the United States of America. There are many examples of how we have contributed to the United States of America.
For example in science, Antonia Novello, M.D., a Puerto Rican-born physician, and vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, was both the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as the U.S. Surgeon General in the early 1990s. She promoted an antismoking campaign, improved AIDS education and worked for better health care for minorities, women, and children. After leaving the surgeon general’s office, she became a United Nations Children’s Fund representative.
In politics, Congresswoman Nydia Margarita, D-N.Y., is a native from my hometown of Yabucoa, who made history as the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Velázquez received the Legacy Award at the 2018 American Latino Influencer Awards for her lifetime of service and fearless advocacy for equal rights.
And lastly in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, “The Borinquneers,” were the most decorated unit during the Korean War and received the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal by former President Barrack Obama in 2014.
In regard to this year’s HHM observance theme, “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” what do you consider the most important cultural value for you and for those close to you?
I consider three core family values to be most important: resilience, dream, and imagining possibilities. According to Royal Spanish Academy, the word hope “Esperanza” is one of the most searchable dictionary words during the COVID-19 Pandemic (almost 3 million searches daily). We need to stay focus and in good spirits to have the internal capacity to mentally and emotionally recover from these difficult times we are all living in – be resilient. Along with having the ability to bounce back, Hispanics need to keep dreaming and imagining what’s to come. How can we use lessons learned to build our better future despite roadblocks along our way? Don’t let anyone sway you away from your dreams, just find ways to keep the momentum – keep moving forward.
Tell us a little known fact that most people do not know about you.
One fact is that people do not know about me is that I was a competitive road cyclist and have won races in both mountain and road bike disciplines at a national level. I was part of the Puerto Rican Cycling Federation Team and represented the island at the 1993 Central American and Caribbean Games. Today, I still ride and occasionally compete at state races and join local group rides.
In the near future, I am planning to do The Camino of Santiago Pilgrimage (the Way of St. James). This is an eleven-day spiritual journey from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, following the legendary footsteps of the apostle Saint James.
How important is it to you that Defense Logistics Agency Aviation recognize this month?
Hispanics are no longer an isolated group of people. In Virginia, we represent 9.8 percent of the population. This past Sept. 15, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of Independence Day of five countries Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. For many years their citizens have defended their democratic independence against despotic and corrupted political leaders’ actions and authoritarian tendencies across the region. Today, vendors in these countries are participating in business opportunities with DLA. I am proud of our DLA Hispanic employees who continue making significant changes and improvements to DLA’s capabilities and the evolving needs of the warfighter.
What do you want the DLA Aviation workforce to take away from celebrating this particular month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate who we are, where we came from and most importantly, where we are heading to. It’s time to stay hungry for success and ambitious for a better future. I encourage the Hispanic community to embrace our Latino roots with pride and show the world what we are capable of. We have done so in the past and we continue to do so as long as we remain strong, build our resiliency and dream of a world with “Esperanza.”