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Keeping culture alive: September kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month

Raquel Ochoa was born in Mexico but only spent a little over a year of her life south of the border. However, she keeps her heritage alive in her profession and her personal life.

Ochoa, communications and event coordinator for Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, is also the founder and leading manager of Port Arthur’s Hispanic Business Council.

“Fernando Ramirez, a member of the commerce, saw a need for Hispanic businesses to be more involved in the chamber,” she said. “The past president of the chamber asked me to look for Hispanic businesses who were already members. I did and it grew from there.”

The council not only brings local businesses to the forefront but hosts important events such as the upcoming, “Way to Success.”

The event, held from 9-11:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, will feature keynote speakers such as Deputy Chief Michael Fratus, immigration attorney Kristy Wedler, local business owners and a representative from Lamar State College Port Arthur. The program will be entirely in Spanish and held at the Carl Parker Multipurpose Center.

The council is also heavily involved in the census, and Ochoa said they are working hard to improve Hispanic voter turnout in the upcoming year.

“It’s mainly the Hispanic community who doesn’t vote,” she said. “It’s either they can’t or they just don’t. We are going to try to really push that. The group at the census already has a committee ready and we are trying to help out in any way possible.”

Aside from spreading her culture and knowledge at work, Ochoa said she also brings her flair for Hispanic culture into her home.

“I love September, the fiestas and everything we do for Hispanic Heritage Month because it gives me the opportunity to show my kids and the people I work with a lot more about our culture,” she said. “It feels good to see people trying to keep their culture alive and helping our kids get to know a little bit more about their roots.”

Sept. 16 is Mexican Independence Day, a celebration that is very important in her household, Ochoa said.

“The day of Independence Day my family and I always watch this program from the Hispanic channel,” she said. “They always show the president giving what we call the ‘El Grito.’ We stay up the night of the 15th and then we celebrate the next day — It’s like the Fourth of July. I’m American, but I still feel and love my Hispanic side.”

Ochoa said she is excited for the Mexican Heritage Fiesta next weekend and is ready to begin Hispanic Heritage Month with a kick.

“It’s great to come out as a Hispanic community,” she said. “We gather and celebrate our culture and it’s important to see everyone really come together.”