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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with VA’s Puerto Rico team

As we continue to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month at VA, we are grateful for the perspectives provided to us by Hispanic colleagues across our network who help us better serve the ever-diversifying population of Veterans we serve.

All Veterans are unique, and we know that health care is not one-size-fits-all. By embracing diversity in our personnel, we find new ways to build teams and bridge the gap in health care for Veterans. This attitude embraced at every level of our organization, including among our colleagues in Puerto Rico.

In their own words

“In Puerto Rico, there’s no other place to work that has the same culture here we have at the VA. If you like to help people that try to help you, the VA is the place,” said Dr. Gerald Marin, an attending physician the VA Medical Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“In order for you to empower people,” explained Rodolfo Armando Barrios-Quinones, a medical photographer in the VA Caribbean Healthcare System. “You start building a team with them. They can feel that they are not by themselves anymore. They are not alone. They move forward.”

“I’m more empathetic with people. I’m more empathetic because they’re my people, you know. They’re Veterans, just like me,” offered David Velazquez, a medical support assistant at the Mayagüez outpatient clinic in Puerto Rico. “I know where they’re at. I know where they’re going through. It motivates me.”

“For us, there’s always going to be a chance here to just have a good time,” said Edwin Marcano-Garcia, a program support clerk in San Juan. “We have that bond, so we get to share ideas. We get to ask each other, ‘Well, what works best? What would be a better method? What’s best for your people and your team?’”

“We’re very creative. We’re very spunky. We’re very energetic,” agreed Raquel Gonzalez-⁠Hodge, the supervisor for the recreation therapy program the San Juan VA Medical Center. “That’s what we need and that’s what we should inspire.”

“I believe that working in VA is the biggest professional dream any Puerto Rican can have,” shared Jorge Santiago, a Whole Health coach in San Juan. “I have a responsibility on my shoulders to work for my community to feel protected. In this case, working with the Veterans, the people who have protected our nation, and being able to provide them with excellent care is one of the most gratifying things one can do.”

A commitment to diversity

National Hispanic Heritage Month began on Sept. 15, a symbolic recognition of the decision of 5 central American nations to declare their independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821. Mexico declared its independence from Spain more than a decade earlier on Sept. 16, 1810.

During this celebration, we take time to share in the history, heritage, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans, especially our teammates and the Veterans we care for. By honoring this culture, rooted in all Latin American countries, we learn more about each other, and become a stronger team because of this shared knowledge.

As we serve the most diverse group of Veterans in history, we reaffirm our commitment to hiring staff that reflects that diversity, ensuring that employees feel supported as they provide equitable health care to all who come through our doors.

“To ensure a welcoming environment for Veterans, we must foster fair and inclusive VA workplaces where the experiences and perspectives of our diverse employees are valued,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “The success of our mission depends on everyone being able to contribute their expertise, experience, talents, ideas and perspectives.”

Work at VA

At VA, we believe that by capitalizing on the diversity of our team, we create an environment where we not only engage with our Veterans but are empowered to deliver outstanding care.

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