Hispanic Heritage Month 2020: HCA Healthcare colleagues celebrate culture and community

Woman wearing orange headband and tan blazer

HCA Healthcare is committed to fostering an engaged and inclusive culture for our patients, colleagues and the communities we serve. Each year, we observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 by celebrating the histories of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

We recognize the important contributions of Hispanic and Latin American healthcare workers who are delivering unwavering care that saves lives, advances health equity and protects our communities, even amid a global pandemic.

Read a few stories from our colleagues below who share how they celebrate their Hispanic/Latinx culture, and how HCA Healthcare can continue to be an advocate for the Hispanic/Latinx community.

Andrew Castillo (Nashville, Tenn.)

Sr. Strategy Analyst, Clinical Operations Group

Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Mexican

Man wearing HCA Healthcare t-shirt

What does your Hispanic/Latinx heritage mean to you?

The biggest thing that comes to mind is family. And family for us growing up was never just my parents and brothers. My tios, tias, and cousins were always at the house. BBQs and watching basketball games always included way too many people. I had this one tio, Uncle Rick. I found out when I was 10 that he’s not even my actual uncle. Everyone was just always part of the family. Now, I live in a different city from my family but I find myself trying to recreate what we always had. Now I get to play the un-related uncle to my friends’ kids.

What are your favorite Hispanic/Latinx cultural traditions?

We didn’t really celebrate Day of the Dead growing up outside of the occasional school art project but I had a chance to visit Oaxaca last fall and I love the traditions involved. Again, with family being such a big value it seems like a really cool and unique way to honor loved ones that aren’t around anymore.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture?

That we don’t all have the same culture. We all have a lot in common but my Mexican-American culture from San Antonio is slightly different from Mexican-American culture in Los Angeles. My ceviche looks different from yours from Peru. The challenges you’re facing as a first-generation American are different than my family who’s been in the US for a few generations. Its all about celebrating the places where we’re similar AND embracing the places where we’re different.

Lisa Garcia (Charleston, S.C.)

Division Director of Creative Services, South Atlantic Division

Hispanic/LatinX heritage: Dominican

Woman wearing orange headband and tan blazer.

What are your favorite Hispanic/Latinx cultural traditions?

Noche Buena has to be my all-time favorite tradition! Many people celebrate Christmas on Christmas day, but for Dominicans, we gather all our family and friends to “parranda” which is the Spanish form of Christmas caroling. Our parrandas are loud, full of instruments, full of energy and full of our favorite Spanish Christmas songs – and yes, there is always dancing. You can’t have a parranda without dancing! The party continues at a relative’s house with more music, more dancing and delicious food. We also have a drink called “Ponche de Ron” or “Coquito” which is a Hispanic version of eggnog. We make a batch without alcohol for the kids and a batch with alcohol for the adults. Every child gets to open one present after dinner and we dance, eat and sing well into the night!

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture?

I wish people knew how far Dominican Republic, as a country, has come. “In the Time of the Butterflies” is one of the many movies that gives insight into a small window of what it was like to live under the rule of Dominican Dictator, Rafael Trujillo. I truly believe that the resilience I’ve been blessed with comes from a long line of ancestors that had the ability to keep persevering regardless of how difficult their circumstances were.

What challenges do you feel exist for Hispanic/Latinx Americans today and how can we help overcome them?

I think the perception is that once you’ve met one Hispanic person, you’ve met them all. Hispanic men and women come from so many different backgrounds and geographical locations. No two people are the same, regardless of where they come from. I wish this challenge didn’t exist. However, I will say that I do love that HCA Healthcare, as a company, is training fellow colleagues to recognize the biases that we may not know we hold. The more recognition there is, the more we can work to eliminate these biases and truly see people for who they are – not who we think they are.

German Galaso (Dallas, Texas)

Administrative Director of Business Development, Medical City Dallas

Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Argentine

Man wearing suit and tie.

What are your favorite Hispanic/Latinx cultural traditions?

Large family gatherings for birthdays and holiday celebrations give me an opportunity to savor my Tia’s (aunt’s) homemade ravioli or catch up with my uncle while he keeps a close watch on the churrasco (Argentine BBQ.)

The World Cup Finals held every four years gives us another opportunity to meet and bond with extended family as we watch the Argentine national team try to advance to the next round of the tournament. I am lucky to be able to cheer on the US as well as Argentina. These are moments I cherished growing up and I now want my kids to share in the experience as well.

How do you stay connected with and honor your heritage?

Preserving our language. While growing up in the US, my parents strictly enforced Spanish speaking in our home. This not only helped me become bilingual, but it has allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with my grandparents that helped shape my identity as a Hispanic-American. On occasion, I will turn on my playlist of traditional Argentine music that includes tango, milonga, and folklore music. I also strive to teach my three daughters about their Latinx ancestors who emigrated to Argentina, where they came from, why they settled in Argentina, and what were the circumstances that led them to settle in a distant land.

What challenges do you feel exist for Hispanic/Latinx Americans today and how can we help overcome them?

Recognizing, developing, and promoting Hispanic/Latinx talent is a major area of opportunity for our organization. As I think about the choices and experiences that have shaped my career, I consider myself extremely fortunate for the opportunities I was given. I can name several former bosses and mentors who took a chance on me because my career trajectory was atypical. Likewise, I believe there is a strong pool of Hispanic/Latinx talent to tap into that will raise the professional profile of these individuals and enable the organization to grow and thrive.

Sal Herrera (Nashville, Tenn.)

Director, IT Service Operations Center

Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Mexican

Man wearing HCA Healthcare polo shirt.

What does your Hispanic/Latinx heritage mean to you?

It means resilience and a never give up attitude. My father was a naturalized citizen migrant from Baja California, Mexico (into Los Angeles). He worked hard to ensure my twin brother and I were provided a great example of dedication and tireless efforts. I associate my heritage to my father’s example. After high school, my twin brother and I were both accepted into West Point, United States Military Academy and both concluded 20+ years as officers in the US Army.

How do you stay connected with and honor your heritage?

I stay connected by having my kids take Spanish in high school (to know the language and practice with them), by telling my kids stories about my parents/their grandparents on how they emigrated, worked hard and provided for all of us, and always ensure my kids see their grandparents a couple times a year.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture?

I retired from the military in 2016 (Army Helicopters) after 25 years and graduated from West Point Military Academy. I think it’s important to know that the percentage of Hispanics serving in the Military ~18% is very similar to our Hispanic US Population percentage. Hispanics have played a proud and courageous role in our US military and have served as early as the late/mid 1800s.

Daphne Palakie (Nashville, Tenn.)

Director of Clinical Sourcing, HCA Healthcare Professional Services, CereCore

Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Brazilian

Woman wearing CereCore t-shirt.

What are your favorite Hispanic/Latinx cultural traditions?

Brazil’s cultural traditions are as colorful as our people. We’re a culture rich in food, faith, martial arts, music, and we love our telenovelas. From the north to the south, you find diversity in each corner as a result of European and African cultural history. Some of my favorite cultural traditions are “Carnaval” or Carnival, a Catholic celebration by origin and food festival where you eat abundantly before the 40 days of Lent. It starts the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday until Lent begins. It’s a weekend of dancing where Samba schools compete with glamorous costumes and floats; many prepare for this all year long. Aside from Carnaval, “futebol” or soccer runs through our blood; I had the pleasure of attending one of the World Cup games here in 1994 when Brazil won the FIFAWorld Cup.

What is something you wish people knew more about from your culture?

We have a deeper appreciation for each other when we understand how different cultures communicate and interact. Everything about our Brazilian culture is communal and focused on connection. It’s reflected in how we eat, drink, and come together to support each other daily. We consider our co-workers part of our extended family and go out of our way to help each other. We are compassionate; we thrive on communication and seek connection. We are interested in others’ wants, needs, and feelings, and we seek social harmony, which makes us great servant leaders. We approach our relationships with a deeper degree of intimacy, whether with a handshake, a hug, or a kiss at greeting; human touch is important and the norm to us (at least before COVID) but not widely accepted in other cultures. I hope that different cultures understand that we are naturally driven to be supportive, friendly, and happy.

How can we bring Hispanic/Latinx culture to life at HCA Healthcare?

HCA Healthcare provides us with a limitless platform of opportunities to engage in development, and diversity and inclusion. I would love to see our company create a program similar to the IT Healthcare Connection program that allows Hispanic/Latinx high school students to attend a one-week summer session to meet with different Hispanic/Latinx leaders at HCA Healthcare and explore different healthcare career pathways throughout the healthcare system. As Hispanic/Latinx leaders at HCA Healthcare, we can influence young adults to pursue many healthcare careers that serve our community and our patients. We have to continue to educate and develop the Hispanic/Latinx future leaders of tomorrow to lead our organization one day. I appreciate and have enjoyed the Hispanic/Latinx Colleague Network that was recently created. I think it’s an excellent start for a deeper connection to our colleagues that can develop into mentoring, networking, and much more.

To learn more about Hispanic Heritage month visit

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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