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Latinx Heritage Month: The ultimate family reunion

Michelle Ruiz, Instructional Designer

Photo illustration by Fernando Augusto

To honor Latinx Heritage Month 2022, we asked Latinx members of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health community what the month means to them. We will be posting the responses throughout the month, which ends October 15, 2022. 

The first voice in our series is Michelle Ruiz, MAEd (she/her).

What is your role here at Berkeley Public Health, and how long have you worked here?

Michelle Ruiz: As an instructional designer, my main role is to guide instructors through the design process of developing student-centered online courses. I joined Berkeley Public Health in 2017, leading the development of online binational certificates under the UC Mexico Initiative. I now support instructional teams from the online MPH program.

What does Latinx Heritage Month mean to you?

Latinx Heritage Month means inspiration thanks to the increased visibility of the accomplishments, scholarship, history, and current experiences of Latinx people. I am always inspired by the contributions of fellow Latinx, making me feel proud of my heritage.

Latinx Heritage Month also means celebration, and like any celebration, no matter what time of the year it is or what kind, a celebration always involves family. Although the Latinx community is not a monolith, I believe that nurturing family connections and embracing others as family is central to Latinx culture.

However, as Gloria Anzaldúa said, the United States/Mexico border is still a “bleeding wound.” It continues to shape the realities of many Latinx families. Being born in the United States, I am one of those privileged who can go in and out, while some members of my family cannot. I am hopeful that Latinx Heritage Month is one of the many avenues we can push out anti-immigrant sentiments and, ultimately, policies that affect many Latinx families, including mine.

How do you celebrate your heritage?

Latinx Heritage Month happens when I start putting together my altar of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). For me, this tradition is the ultimate family reunion; through conversations, food, and music, we celebrate our relatives who have passed away.

In the past few years, I added pictures of family members that I deeply cared for, so I have become invested in decorating my altar to honor them and demonstrate they are still very much in my heart and memory.