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NEWS | Oct. 1, 2020

Achieving the American Dream: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

By Rachel Kersey 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

“I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in Queens,” said Tech. Sgt. Genesis Infante. “I am a proud Hispanic woman in the United States Air Force.”  

The daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, Infante, who has been active duty for nearly eleven years, is currently the chief of Basic Military Training, or BMT, Protocol for the 737th Training Group.  

“I have the honor of ensuring everyone who visits BMT understands our history, growth, and the development of our future Airmen,” she said.  

At the age of eighteen, Infante enlisted in the Air Force. Originally, it was to carve out independence from her parents and ensure financial stability as she pursued her career goals.  

“Turns out, I was more of an Airman than I could have imagined as an 18-year-old, which is why I am still here,” she said.  

The Air Force community has embraced all aspects of Infante, including her culture, and she enjoys sharing the culinary aspects of her Ecuadorian heritage. 

“Food has a way of bringing people together,” she said. “Just the other day, I returned from leave and brought back a dish from my country my aunt made from scratch. It was an opportunity to teach my colleagues about the dishes that have been passed down generation by generation. But most importantly, I shared with them a part of me.”  

Hispanic Heritage Month for Infante isn’t just about sharing and teaching others, however. As someone born and raised in the United States, the celebration is also about learning for herself.  

“Hispanic Heritage Month allows us the opportunity to learn something that otherwise we wouldn’t have easily had access to,” she said. “Multiple countries are being represented in parades or gatherings embracing their culture. They have different dialects, different dances to different music, and different specialty dishes.”  

This sort of celebration was how Infante learned that one of her longtime favorite dishes, ceviche, is prepared different ways by people from different countries, and she loves all of them.  

Language, like food, is another thing that can bring people in a melting pot together. Or, it can drive them apart.  

“One of the biggest things I have grown up witnessing my family struggle with is the language barrier,” she said. “I watched people in my mother's work center get annoyed with her because they didn’t understand what she was saying.” 

Her mother was overlooked for promotions as well. It took her 20 years to learn English, but even then, the way she spoke the language was not acceptable to other people, Infante said, recalling how people working customer service jobs would be rude to her mother because of her language skills.  

Her mother never let that stop her, she said. She made the struggle into one of her strengths and, in doing so, achieved the American Dream. 

“She was an immigrant who arrived in the United States in her 20’s, a single mother of four with no high school education,” Infante said. “Almost 40 years later, she can say she is a homeowner with a paid off house in New York City. She owns a fully paid off vehicle, she is retired, and has raised four children who are financially independent and free to pursue whatever path they choose.  That is what my family considers the American Dream.”  

Every Airman has a different story of how they are pursuing or achieved their unique version of the American Dream, and taking the time to listen is a great way to honor the things that unite all Americans.  

“I believe what we all could benefit from this month and in the future is having the willingness to learn,” she said. “Learn about a culture or heritage that may be different from ours, one that we may or may not like, but by knowing of it - that makes us the land of the free.”