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National Hispanic Heritage month

October 11, 2022

The 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month national theme is Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.

Hispanic is an all-encompassing word and refers to people who speak Spanish or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines "Hispanics as persons of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

The national observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting September 15 and ending October 15 of each year. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.

Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the United States today, and generations of Hispanic Americans have consistently helped make our country strong and prosperous. They contribute to our Nation beyond description. Hispanic Americans embody the best of our American values, including commitment to faith, family, and country. The Hispanic American community has left an indelible mark on our government, culture, and economy.

SWAAAE honors a small sampling of Hispanic persons who have made their careers in the Aviation Community:

Fanny Rivera, Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights, Federal Aviation Administration

Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, and current director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

Major Marisol A. Chalas, the first Latina National Guard Black Hawk pilot.

Lieutenant Colonel Olga E. Custodio is a former United States Air Force officer who became the first female Hispanic U.S. military pilot. She was the first Hispanic woman to complete U.S. Air Force military pilot training. Upon retiring from the military, she became the first female Hispanic commercial airline captain of American Airlines.

David Cavazos, A.A.E., Past Director of the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, Sky Harbor International Airport, and the City’s first Hispanic City Manager.

Closer to home, we honor our own SWAAAE members:

Jorge Rubio, A.A.E., C.A.E., Airports Deputy Director, City of San Diego Airports and Southwest AAAE, Immediate Past President. Mr. Rubio has been a proud member of SWAAAE and its parent national organization, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) for more than 15 years. During his term as SWAAAE President, Mr. Rubio worked for more intentional diversity and inclusion in the industry and worked with many SWAAAE committees to achieve this goal. He implemented the next steps of SWAAAE’s Strategic Business Plan and created the Young Professionals Ad-Hoc Committee.

Zenia Cornejo, MPA, our newest SWAAAE member is Airport Administration Supervisor at Mesa, Falcon Field Airport, in Arizona. Ms. Cornejo started her aviation carrier, when she accepted a Management position at the City of Eloy, Arizona, only to find that she was assigned to manage their airport. She undertook the assignment and immersed herself in all things airport. After five years at the Eloy Airport, she had an opportunity to go to Mesa Falcon Field. She has earned the respect and admiration of the airport tenants and customers for her forthright style and amazing work ethic.

While we celebrate the striving and achievement of many of our Hispanic American citizens, let us not forget that there is still much to do. According to the Pew Research Center, “there has been a rise in the share of Hispanic students attending and graduating from college as well as a rise in the share of Hispanic students earning a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field (up from 8% in 2010 to 12% in 2018, according to Center analysis of U.S. Department of Education data). Even so, Hispanic students remain underrepresented in STEM degree programs, relative to all college graduates.” (Pew Research Center, Hispanic Americans’ Trust in and Engagement With Science, June 14, 2022).

Organizations such as the National Hispanic Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NHCFAE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the American Planning Association (APA), Latinos and Planning Division are just a few of organizations on a national level that are working to increase representation of Hispanics in science-based professions.

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