The Philadelphia Eagles, along with the NFL, recognize the diversity which exists and cherish the differences each and every one of us has. Today, the NFL celebrates the Hispanic heritage of so many players, coaches, and personnel around the league. Within the Eagles organization, several members of the Eagles Cheerleaders shared how their Hispanic heritage shaped their life's journey.
One commonality throughout their answers – family and music. "As a daughter of parents who were born and raised in Puerto Rico, I feel that I do view the world through a different lens due to my exposure to different cultures and languages. In my family, we come in all different shapes and colors, which has given me a big appreciation for diversity and inclusion," said Gabriela.
"Since I can remember, I've listened to my father, Abraham, a professional musician, sing and play instruments around the house, which definitely influenced me to play the saxophone for most of my childhood. He also has always been a supporter of my love for dancing since I was 2 years old. He would take me to all my dance classes and even perform in recitals to share my passion with me. I definitely get my love of performance and entertaining from him!"
"My Spanish and Puerto Rican heritage is the reason why I am now a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader, and most importantly, how I found my life's purpose of empowering those in need," added Ariana.
"I credit my passion and gift for dance to my family, including my great-grandmother, Teresita Larrea Moreno, who was a classical Spanish dancer from southern Spain. My grandmother laughs I am the reincarnated version of her, as I was born the same year she passed away. My creative performances for the Eagles Cheerleaders auditions incorporated a flamenco dance flair in honor of her.
"Not only can I attribute my love for dance to my Hispanic heritage, but most importantly, it has allowed me to live out my life's purpose; utilize my passion to leave a positive impact in the world through the unique platform I stand on as an Eagles Cheerleader. From supporting our military to fundraising for the Eagles Autism Foundation, I have the opportunity to empower others and support those in need.
"My Hispanic heritage has undoubtedly led me to my passion and gift of dancing, and the Eagles organization allows me to give it away for the benefit of others."
Another key message in these answers was love. Not only the love of family. But the love of the surrounding community in the journey these ladies have traveled.
Growing up as part African American and part Hispanic, several of the women stated their blessings to have friends of both cultures surrounding them and helping them along the way. By doing so, they were able to find themselves – and what was important to them.
"Growing up in a mixed Hispanic and Black household was nothing short of heartwarming. Family was and always will be everything. It was instilled in myself and my siblings at a young age, that our culture and beliefs are what will carry you through this life. On a traditional Saturday morning, we are awakened by the sounds of Latin music and the humming of the vacuum against the floor. Mi madre, moving her hips side to side, not knowing a lick of Spanish, but understanding every word. With a mother who is Hispanic, but spoke very little, I learned a lot of my Spanish in school and through conversations with my Hispanic friends who spoke no English," said Shardae.
"Growing up, there weren't many half African American, half Spaniards in Philly that I knew of," Taylor said. "Luckily, Philly is very diverse and is also known as the City of Brotherly Love. I was still able to keep my Spanish roots with many other Hispanics in my community. My mami spoke little to no Spanish, so I always enjoyed visiting friends and other countries to learn Spanish and learn of my own and other Spanish cultures. Being able to not only be a role model to young African American girls, but also half Hispanic/half Black kids is more than rewarding because they will always have someone who looks like them and someone to look up to."
Victoria is a first-generation American. Her mother was born by a single teenage woman in the South American country Guyana which has Caribbean culture. Her father, Steven, who is of African American and Puerto Rican descent, didn't know his dad because he was killed serving our country in Vietnam. Victoria says that there was a piece of him that was missing not having that connection to his Hispanic culture.
"I grew up knowing that my father was of Hispanic descent, but was also not raised around it so I never fully identified with being Puerto Rican," said Victoria. "I never even sat down to think about what my life could have been like if I grew up with my Hispanic culture. I now realize that in order to truly understand my journey, I must first understand where I come from. This question has encouraged me to discover more about my Hispanic heritage/culture and challenged me to think about how race and culture and interconnected.
"'Our roots extend far beyond what you grow up being consciously aware of,' is something my father, Steven, told me."
Having such wonderful role models representing the Philadelphia Eagles is a blessing. Many of the gifts shown by these ladies are due to their Hispanic heritage – one that the Eagles celebrate today and every day.
"In my adult years, my heritage plays a large part in the woman I am today. It has taught me the value of family and celebration, the love and appreciation for music and instruments, as well as the acceptance of others. Although only part of me is this, it's helped shape all of me!" said Shardae.
"Music and dance have always been a huge influence in my life since both play such a huge role in the Spanish culture. I am proud to call myself a Puerto Rican woman," said Gabriela.