Our Community » Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

We are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month! We asked members of our city school staff what their heritage means to them and how they celebrate throughout the year. 

Diego Ernesto Wilson

City of Fairfax Schools, Assistant to the Superintendent


Education: Virginia Master Mechanical Tradesman

James Madison University BBA-International Finance

George Mason University Masters Education Leadership


What country/countries are you/your family from?

Ecuador, South America


How has your Hispanic/Latino culture influenced who you are today? The Latino culture has a high regard for family and maintaining bonds with immediate members and extended family. Our values are based on Judeo/Christian beliefs and following those tenets are important in our lives. Education is also held in high regard and important to maintaining the liberties, which is why we came to the USA.


What are important cultural celebrations/traditions/values/events do you and your family celebrate or honor? Most of our celebrations are around religious holidays, Christmas, Chanukah and Easter, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur are what comes to mind.  We have adopted Halloween and Thanksgiving and made it part of our get-togethers.  

Bruni Herring,

Spanish Teacher (Levels 1 and 2)

Fairfax High School


University/Degree(s) Marymount College, Tarrytown, NY, BA Speech Communications and Drama, currently working on a Masters in Spanish from Idaho State University (online program)


What country/countries are you/your family from? My dad was from the Dominican Republic


How has your Hispanic/Latino culture influenced who you are today? I grew up in an area in New York City called Washington Heights, also known as Little Dominican Republic for all the Dominicans who reside in that section of the city. Everyone knew everybody and took care of each other. Merengue could be heard throughout the neighborhood. Summer wasn't just for us kids, men would set up card tables on the block to play dominoes for hours. The aroma of traditional Dominican food was everywhere and you respected everyone's mom as if she was your own.  My culture taught me to be an honest, caring and giving person. Growing up, that's what we did as a community and that is what I have tried to pass on to my own children and to my students.


What are important cultural celebrations/traditions/values/events do you and your family celebrate or honor? Our faith in God, food, music and baseball are the first things that come to mind.  Making certain foods during the holidays like Christmas and Easter- a roast pork called Pernil (Dominican Style) and lots of other dishes for special occasions. The fun is in the name La Bandera (the flag) white rice, red beans and some type of meat, Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) White rice mixed with black beans, Los Tres Golpes (The Three Hits; punches) Plantain, Dominican Salami, fried queso blanco with eggs over easy and my favorite drink Morir Soñando (to Die Dreaming) a mix of milk and orange juice. I know it doesn't sound good, but it's like drinking a creamsicle. Merengue is fast paced, but easy to dance to and of course we love our baseball. My son grew up playing and still does today in college.

Sonia Calderon-Teran

Katherine Johnson Middle School

ESOL Teacher (Social Studies and English)



University: B.S. Business Administration from George Mason University

M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction with Endorsement in ESOL K-12


Family: I am from Bolivia; I came to the United States when I was 16 years old. 


How has your Hispanic/Latino culture influenced who you are today? I value my Hispanic culture tremendously, and I try to preserve it as much as possible. I have five children, and they all grew up immersed in those values such as the importance of family, respect for your elders, honesty, and hardworking. The five of them are college graduates, and I am very proud of them. I have a Dermatologist, a lawyer, an Aerospace Engineer, an Urban Planner, and a Professional Chef.   


What are essential cultural celebrations: Bolivian Mothers Day, May 27th, is significant because we celebrate the heroism and courage of the Bolivian Women.


One of the most important traditions that we celebrate is November 1st, "Todo Santos," which is the day we remember the ancestors who have left us. We dedicate the entire day to them; we visit the cemetery and bring fresh flowers. This celebration is similar to the "El Dia de Los Muertos"


Christmas Eve is also a significant celebration for us. On December 24th in the evening, the whole family gets together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, have a nice dinner, and exchange gifts.  We spend the whole evening together and on December 25 we have breakfast together.

Maria Marris

Social Worker at Katherine Johnson MS and Fairfax Villa ES  


Education: Bachelor's in Social Work, University of Texas El Paso and Master's in Social Work, University of Denver


Family: "My mother is from Juarez, Chihuahua Mexico and her father was Spanish; My father was from New Mexico and had Navajo in his background."


How has your culture influenced who you are today? "As a Hispanic, I was raised to honor family and our elders and to strive for a higher education.  I am a social worker because I wanted to help people improve the situations they are faced with."


What are important cultural celebrations/traditions/values/events do you and your family celebrate or honor? "I love celebrating the Birth of Christ by going to church and at times participating in a “Posada” which is when Joseph and Mary were looking for a place for Mary to give birth.  Religious tradition, with singing, praying, and of course eating!  During Christmas, we spend an entire day as a family making hundreds of Tamales: Pork in red chile, Chicken in green chile and sweet tamales. It’s a wonderful time spent together working but having fun talking, teasing and cooking and then sitting down to enjoy an AMAZING dinner together.


Easter Sunday is another wonderful celebration.  We go to church and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  Then we would gather with all of our aunts and uncles, cousins etc. at a park and have a HUGE picnic with lots of food and games all in our Sunday best.  We have traditional meals such as a bread pudding called “Capirotada” prepared specifically for this Holiday. 


Finally on the Day of the Dead, near the time of Halloween, our family would go and visit our loved ones at the cemetery and at times multiple cemeteries’.  We would sit and visit with our loved ones and share stories about our lives.  Place beautiful flowers on their tombs.  Some people would even prepare meals for their loved ones."



Marlene Manja

Providence Elementary, Kindergarten Instructional Assistant




George Washington University, BA Psychology 



My Mother is from Colombia and my father from Guatemala.


How has your culture influenced who you are today?

I am fluent in Spanish which helps me every day at school communicate to students who are acclimating to a new culture.  My Latino culture has shaped the music I listen to, and I enjoy dancing salsa with my husband.


What are important cultural celebrations/traditions/values/events do you and your family celebrate or honor?

At Christmas my family has a Guatemalan tradition of eating tamales and drinking hot ponche (punch).  Food is part of my cultural traditions such as empanadas and arroz con leche (rice pudding).