December 8, 2023

Glad Nationwide Hispanic Heritage Month! This yr’s theme is “Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Energy and Progress in America.”  That theme has made me mirror upon my circle of relatives’s historical past on this nation and the way far we’ve come.

As a lot of you recognize, I’m Mexican American and a fifth-generation Arizonan, which implies my household has been in Arizona because the 1700s.  My great-great Nana Eduvijes Fontes was a pioneer girl, who lived by means of onerous instances throughout the Despair, witnessed battles of the Mexican Revolution, and traveled tons of of miles alongside what’s now generally known as the Arizona-Mexico border serving to information troopers within the Arizona desert. My different great-great Nana operated a meals stand, even promoting as soon as to Francisco “Pancho” Villa, who was a pacesetter within the Mexican Revolution. My household additionally consists of my Tata Albert, who was a veteran and a mechanic for the Metropolis of Phoenix, and my Nana Celia, who raised 11 children together with my mother, Eduvijes. 

Eduvijes Fontes

Eduvijes Fontes

Elevating a big Mexican American household in Phoenix within the Nineteen Fifties and 60s meant dealing with discriminatory indicators like “No Canine or Mexicans.” My mother used inform me tales about peering into downtown division retailer home windows, admiring the gorgeous clothes, however by no means having the ability to go inside. She’d additionally inform me in regards to the instances when the household dressed as much as attend mass within the downtown Basilica. My household was by no means allowed within the upstairs pews—however as a substitute, could be compelled to sit down and pray within the basement of the church. They have been remoted and hidden from the remainder of the church goers.

Eduviges Fontes in The Daily Arizona Star paper.

Eduviges Fontes in The Every day Arizona Star paper.

Remarkably, and a testomony to the “Prosperity, Energy and Progress in America,” my mom’s daughter now runs the Workplace for Civil Rights on the U.S. Division of Well being & Human Providers—only one era later. My household’s tales, my roots, and our collective experiences form who I’m, and the work I do with all of you. I’m very pleased with my historical past and tradition. I take into consideration my household on daily basis in our work—what they’ve skilled and overcame, and the way I obtained right here. I do know every of you might have your individual household histories that drive you to advancing the mission of our workplace and civil rights in our nation. I’m ecstatic to have the ability to share mine.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra pictured with OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer and her mother.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra pictured with OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer and her mom.

I’m additionally proud to be a part of an Administration that helps and honors the varied historical past of generations of Latinos, who’ve formed this nation. This month, President Biden signed a proclamation on Nationwide Hispanic Heritage Month to spotlight the very important contributions that our colleagues, together with our personal head of HHS, Secretary Xavier Becerra, in addition to greater than 62 million Latinos make within the U.S. This Administration has additionally made fairness a Day One precedence, together with rising Latino enrollment in healthcare by roughly 1 million folks, offering over 7.6 billion {dollars} in funding for 1400 Neighborhood Well being Facilities (CHCs), which predominately serve Latino and communities of colour, and enhancing prescription drug protection and decreasing prices by means of the Inflation Discount Act.

And this month, I participated in a panel titled “Latinas to the Entrance: Dialog in regards to the State of Ladies’s Well being” on the first-ever HHS Hispanic Well being Summit. Latinas are significantly susceptible within the reproductive well being house, with 6.5 million Latinas now dwelling within the 26 states which have banned or are prone to ban abortion. I proudly spoke on the actions that HHS has taken to guard reproductive healthcare, and an summary of civil rights protections that Latinas are lined by, and the sources which might be made obtainable by my workplace. This dialog is vital and wanted available.

Latinas to the Front: Conversation about the State of Women’s Health Panel

Latinas to the Entrance: Dialog in regards to the State of Ladies’s Well being Panel

The work we’ve completed to enhance the lives of Latinos dwelling in America makes me proud. I’ll at all times use my household’s historical past as motivation in working with all of you to satisfy the OCR mission. ¡Feliz Mes de la Herencia Hispana!