As a Colombian American, I am particularly pleased to celebrate the extensive achievements of the more than 50 million Hispanic Americans in the United States during Hispanic Heritage Month. And in my role as Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, I cannot help but focus, too, on the contributions of Hispanic communities across the region and across the globe.
Most paramount here are the tight linkages among the diverse Hispanic American communities and our countries of heritage. As President Trump noted in his 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation, “Hispanic Americans strengthen our bonds with our Latin American neighbors…,” and I am struck by the dedication we show both to the United States and our countries of heritage.
The Department of State is committed to engaging with the Hispanic diaspora to leverage their policy expertise and existing business, investment, and philanthropic relationships in the region in service of the shared security and prosperity objectives of the United States and the hemispheric community.
When natural disasters and humanitarian crises strike in the region, Hispanic Americans are often first in line to help. The Mexican American community swiftly mobilized to respond to needs stemming from the powerful earthquakes on September 8 and September 19, communicating with friends and family around Mexico City and Oaxaca to coordinate donations. Mexican American actress Selma Hayek, for example, began a campaign for UNICEF to support those impacted by the earthquake. One of the 67-person Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue Team deployed to Mexico City as part of USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team was born in Michoacán. He put skills into action in service of both the United States and Mexico.
Hispanic Americans are also creating economic opportunity at home and abroad. As President Trump said, “Hispanic Americans continue to embody the pioneering spirit of America today.” Hispanic-owned small businesses—the fastest growing businesses in the United States—are well-placed to partner with the Department of State in its efforts to spur investment and cultivate entrepreneurism in support of prosperity.
Take our Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI). YLAI brings young entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States to share best practices, augment their business and social venture plans, and learn from U.S. counterparts. Last week, our second group of YLAI Fellows is beginning its program in Atlanta. These young leaders can become potential partners and advocates for Hispanic-owned business in the United States, and we are already seeing this in action.
We in the Department of State also depend on the unique talents of Hispanic Americans. I encourage you to check out profiles of some of our best and brightest in our special Hispanic Heritage Month feature. As Secretary Tillerson stated, “We have a great diversity gap in the State Department… As the arm of the U.S. Government representing America around the world, the U.S. State Department should be a clear display of America’s values and our people, not just in our mission but in the composition of our workforce.” I could not agree more. Under Secretary Tillerson’s leadership, the Department is committed to increasing the number of Hispanics in the Department’s ranks. In addition to existing student programs and fellowships such as Pickering and Rangel, the Department is actively recruiting at institutions that serve large Hispanic populations. I myself will speak to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ Annual Conference on October 30 to highlight State Department careers and programs.
As we commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, know that the U.S. Department of State stands with you as a partner and an advocate. !Adelante conjuntos! Vamos a mejorar los Estados Unidos y las Americas.
About the Author: Francisco Palmieri serves as Acting Assistant Secretary in the Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.