Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month
Updated October 13, 2016
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we've asked a few of our team members to share stories and tips from their home countries.
Malecòn, the main road and seawall along the coast in Havana, Cuba.
Below meet Hermes as he shares his memories and tips from his home country of Cuba. His family moved from Cuba to Madrid in 1970 when he was seven years old.
Pictured left is a young Hermes sporting a traditional Cuban attire. On the right is a childhood celebration in Havana.
Hermes Pineda - Managing Director of Airport Operations and Cargo Human Resources
Cuban culture is unique in the Caribbean. Cuban people love music and we love to dance. For many years, Havana was the epicenter of the Caribbean for aspiring musicians looking to make it big, and many did, like Celia Cruz and Benny More. Today, Cubans continue to love their music, and also relish sports like baseball, boxing, and track and field. In addition, the art scene there, led by many wonderful — but not well-known — painters and sculptors, is exploding.
As in many other Caribbean countries, food and drink are an important part of Cuban life. Thinly sliced green plantains, and rice and black beans are staples. Seafood is always great there; after all, it is the largest island in the Caribbean. Roasted pork is a delicacy typically reserved for festive times or special occasions. If you visit, look for small, family-owned restaurants for the most authentic cuisine. A Cuba Libre made with Havana Club rum is a delicious traditional drink.
I'm excited to go back once United resumes service to Havana in November. Of course I'm curious to see the people and places after all these years. My half-brother still has family and friends there, so I am looking forward to reconnecting with them. Cuban people are warm and welcoming, and they're happy that more Americans will be coming to the island.
When you visit, skip the tourist traps and get out into the local neighborhoods and the countryside to see Cuba for what it really is. Walk around and meet people, sample the food and experience all that it has to offer. In Havana, go and see the Malecòn, the main road and seawall along the beachfront. Seek out the now up-and-coming artists; many of them are becoming more publicized now, and art dealers are taking notice. The squares or, plazas, in Cuba are actually quite similar to those in Spain and Italy, with painters on the corners selling their work.
Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru.
Below meet Hector and Patty as they share insights and recommendations from their home country of Peru.
Above left Hector with his mom, pictured right is Machu Picchu, a main attraction in Peru.
Hector Calderon – Dulles based ramp supervisor
Home to Machu Picchu and the capital of the Incan Empire, visiting Peru is a life-changing experience. Though our family moved to the U.S., we still have relatives in Baranco, a district of Lima where my mom lived. Similarly to many Hispanic countries, Peru is very family-oriented. It is common for many generations to live together – it is actually pretty rare for people to move out of their family home.
Tradition and history are very important to Peruvians and are easily maintained due to generations living so close together. We share traditional meals and really enjoy home cooking. Unlike in the U.S., there aren't many big corporations and most of the restaurants are mom and pop shops serving up traditional Peruvian dishes like ceviche. Ceviche is a seafood dish made from raw fish that has been marinated in citrus juice and mixed with vegetables such as onions and tomatoes. This dish pairs perfectly with pisco, Peru's high-proof spirit made from distilled grapes.
Additionally, there's plenty to see in Peru. Of course, there is Machu Picchu, where the archaeological remains from the Incan Empire are still very much intact. If you visit Peru you will undoubtedly visit this site where buildings, walls, stairs and life from our ancestors can still be seen. It's surreal to know that this was once the home to Incans, at what was the peak of the empire's power.
Above Patty is hiking on the Inca Trails.
Patty Alvitez – Portland based airport operations supervisor
I moved to the U.S., but have many relatives, including my parents, who still live in Lima. When I go back to Peru I always go straight to my parent's home. We love to go to a restaurant called La Rosa Nautica. It's a fine dining restaurant on the ocean pier very close to Miraflores, an upscale residential and shopping district. It's a great place to spend special occasions. You'll definitely need to try a pisco sour, a Peruvian drink made from pisco, egg whites and lime juice.
First, you should head to Aguas Calientes, a three-and-a-half hour train ride from Cusco where you can spend the day hiking, eating delicious foods and if you are like me and love shopping, there are plenty of great shops to peruse. I recommend spending the night in Aguas Calientes and waking up early to see the sunrise on Machu Picchu. That morning you can take a 15-minute van to Machu Picchu. It is truly the most beautiful sight.
Another attraction to see are the Inca Trails that stretch between the city of Cusco and all the way to the ruins of Machu Picchu. There are many different trail routes that you can take with varying difficulty levels, but it's an amazing way to see the gorgeous countryside, rivers, waterfalls, animals and the Andes Mountains. Some trail routes lead to the Cocalmayo hot springs, which is also a bonus.
This year, United is celebrating its 50
th year serving Mexico. Below are stories about what you can expect to find and what you should do when visiting Mexico City.
Mexico's all-inclusive resorts and gorgeous beaches make it a popular vacation destination. Traveling inward from the beaches to some of Mexico's landlocked areas is where you will find some of Mexico's most historical districts.
Zocalo is the main square of Mexico city, and was once the Aztec's ceremonial center.
Ricardo Albarran Sanchez – Denver based Flight Attendant
Mexico City is a blend of a modern, cosmopolitan city mixed with remnants from the city's past. There are high-rise buildings, amazing architecture, the people are always welcoming and the population is growing rapidly. Churches, temples and even a castle remain from years of conquistadors. The
Chapultepec Castle dates back to the 1700's when it was home to royalty. Today, Mexico's National History Museum lives in the castle, I highly suggest checking it out.
Ricardo also suggests traveling just 50 miles south of Mexico City where you'll find the small country town of Cuernavaca, the perfect place for rest and relaxation. Locals enjoy visiting Cuernavaca to socialize, catch up on politics and to enjoy time out from the day to day rush. Think of it as the Hamptons of Mexico City, only full of Mexican tradition and culture.
Pictured left is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the right is Arlette overlooking Mexico City.
Arlette Martinez - Cargo Analysis Representative, Chicago
My dad lived in Guanajuato and my mom lived in Hidalgo, both states are very close to Mexico City, in Central, Southern Mexico. I still have a lot of family there, which gives me an excuse to visit almost once a year. Each neighborhood has a plaza that is brimming with authentic Mexican culture. Locals congregate in the plazas to enjoy shops, vendors selling artifacts, traditional Mexican restaurants and street food. My favorite plazas are in Coyoacan, which is a historic borough in Mexico City's Federal District, and Zocalo which is the main plaza in Mexico City and once the center of the Aztec capital.
Just 30 minutes away from Zocalo is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is one of the world's most visited Catholic shrines. Even if you're not interested in religion the Basilica's architecture is truly unique.
Cathedral of Granada
Below meet Francisco and Ana as they share stories and tips from their home country of Nicaragua.
La Cruz de Bobadilla is a cross planted at the tip of the volcano to drive away evil.
Francisco Maestas - Airport Operations Customer Service Manager, Houston
My family is from Somoto, a city in northern Nicaragua. I love visiting my family in Nicaragua, my grandparents lived in a small town called Leon. When you visit Nicaragua you must see the Granada, the Spanish colonial ruins that survived numerous invasions. Also visiting the Masaya Volcano is a must. The volcano is still active, but you can hike up it and tour the underground tunnels that were created by flowing lava. My favorite memory is swimming in Laguna de Xiloa, a volcanic crater that is filled with fresh water — the aquatic life and snorkeling is amazing.
Above left Ana arrives at Corn Island, pictured right is surf town, San Juan del Sur
Ana Carranza - Ramp Service Employee, Los Angeles
When you come to Nicaragua you will notice how welcoming the locals are, and how diverse the country is from its people to its geography. The Corn Islands off the Atlantic coast offer a serene atmosphere for relaxing — you won't believe that you're still in Nicaragua with how mellow the islands are. On the pacific side there is the vibrant San Juan del Sur,, a coastal town known for its exuberant surf community. The best time to come to Nicaragua is during Semana Santa, or Holy Week, at the end of March. There are tons of festivities, carnivals and the beaches come alive with people enjoying time with their loved ones.
Canada's largest city spreads out along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, and it's a dynamic, multicultural and inclusive experience like almost no other place on earth. Not only is Toronto a thriving living city,it's also become one of the world's truly must-visit destinations. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest places to live, Toronto is the cultural center of the country and home to the biggest events, the most pro sports and the greatest concentration of theaters and restaurants.
Recent decades have seen regular multi-million-dollar upgrades to the city's public spaces, with a slew of great museums, iconic architecture and the redevelopment of the now glittering lakefront adding to the city's appeal.
Add in an ever-growing number of world-class hotels, upbeat nightlife that runs from dusk until dawn and a vibrant and diverse culinary scene influenced by the eclectic makeup of the city's people. Bright and bustling, cosmopolitan and cultured, unpredictable and energetic, Toronto has become one of the greatest cities on earth.
What you see and where you go will depend on the length of your stay. A week is good, longer is better. But even a long weekend will give you a taste of 'The Six' — one of the city's many nicknames, reworked recently as 'The 6ix' by one of its most famous sons, Drake.
However long you stay, you can't hope to see it all. So, consider what follows a starting point for your first visit…
City Hall, Toronto
The checklist sites
No visit to The Six can be considered complete without ticking off several of Toronto's true heavyweight sights. All of the following are in or within easy reach of the city's compact, walk-able and very vibrant center.
The CN Tower is unmissable in every sense, a vast freestanding spire that looks down upon the city and takes its place as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World'. Head up for the city's best 360-degree views, or get your heart racing on the EdgeWalk — a journey around the circumference of the tower's main pod, 116 stories high and tethered by a harness.
Back on solid ground, Ripley's Aquarium is almost right next door to the CN Tower and is home to 16,000 aquatic animals and the Dangerous Lagoon. A moving sidewalk that whisks you through a long tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays is guaranteed to make your heart race all over again.
Also close to the CN Tower is the Rogers Center, home to Canada's only baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Visit on game day for the full experience, or take the stadium tour to go behind the scenes and through closed doors.
In a city of so many museums and galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum stands out. Not just because it's home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, but as much because it hosts exciting Friday night events that include dance, drink and top DJs.
Two other must ticks include the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses 95,000 works of art and is free for visitors under 25, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which taps into Canada's national obsession in stunning depth.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Casa Loma is a must-visit Gothic castle in the heart of the city. North America's only castle is filled with artworks and treasures from Canada and beyond, but its big pull is the network of hidden tunnels to explore as they stretch out beneath the city.
Toronto's multi-cultural makeup is visible all across the city but reflected best in its remarkable culinary scene (see Where to eat and drink). The city's 'fresh and local' mantra is perfectly showcased at St. Lawrence Market, one of the world's greatest food experiences. Pay it a visit and grab a peameal bacon sandwich — a Canadian staple invented in Toronto and now considered the city's signature dish.
St. Lawrence Market
Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering the historic cobblestone and car-free Distillery District. Once a vast whiskey distillery and an important spot during prohibition, historians mention that even Al Capone would visit the Distillery to load alcohol destined for the States . This iconic landmark now distils creativity within the 19th century buildings now home to hip restaurants, bars, independent boutique stores, galleries and theaters. Visit in December for the Toronto Christmas Market.
Finally, don't even think about returning home without having had a picture taken with your head poking through an 'O' of the multicolored, 3D Toronto sign at City Hall — the most Insta-worthy location in a city of so many. You'll need to head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
If you stay long enough, take a ferry and hop across to Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario just south of the mainland. They're home to beaches, a theme park and a breathtaking view of the city's skyline and will very happily fill a full day of your stay.
The bucket list
You absolutely cannot leave Toronto without having witnessed the power of the Niagara Falls and its hypnotic mist up close. Trying to visit the Falls from the States is a trip on its own, but it's almost non-optional when you're less than two hours away in Toronto. Take the trip, buy the T-shirt and tick off one of the world's must-see sights.
Explore like a local
Away from the sleek, gleaming towers of downtown lie many of Toronto's less obvious but no less essential attractions. West Queen West is Toronto's hippest neighborhood and artistic heart, a one-mile strip of very chic galleries, stores, restaurants and boutique hotels. Kensington Market is a fantastically chaotic neighborhood and perhaps the best example of the city's famous multiculturalism. It's not a market as the name implies, but a collection of independent shops, vintage boutiques, art spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants from every corner of the globe.
The Bata Shoe Museum is one of the city's quirkiest collections, an unexpectedly fascinating exhibit that retraces the 4,500-year history of footwear. And as you wander the city, you can't fail to notice that Toronto's walls are alive with graffiti. Take a free 90-minute walking tour through the back alleys of Queen Street West and down Graffiti Alley to gain a better understanding of the city's street art scene. If you visit during the sunnier months, escape the hustle by heading just east of the center to High Park, the green heart of the city where forests, walking trails, picnic spots and even a zoo await you. Ideal to unwind after a long day of urban adventures.
When to go With the sun shining, May through October is a great time to visit, but the city is alive through all four seasons. The Spring and Autumn months are ideal as the humidity and visitor numbers are lighter, while Toronto comes alive through the colder months through a wide array of winter celebrations. One of the most spectacular is the Aurora Winter Festival, a six-week celebration that sees the Ontario Place, West Island transformed into four mystical worlds. Whichever season you choose, plan to stay for at least five nights to get a true flavor of the city.
Toronto skyline view
Where to stay To be at the heart of most of the attractions you'll want to see, aim for downtown. One of the best options is the Marriott City Center, not only because it's located right next to the CN Tower but also because it's attached to the iconic Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play and countless concerts and popular events are held.
Toronto Blue Jay stadium
Opt for a Stadium room and you'll look out onto the field. If you want to experience Toronto's non-stop nightlife, the Entertainment District is the place to be. If you're looking for a luxury experience, discover Canada's first St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.
Where to eat and drink Nowhere is Toronto's incredible diversity more evident than in its food scene — taste Toronto and you're tasting the world. The city is brimming with restaurants and cafés serving everything from high-end fine dining to comfort food from an informal neighborhood joint — plus every option imaginable in between.
For fine dining, consider Alo, Canis and Edulis. Book a table at Canoe, Lavelle, The One Eighty or 360 at the CN Tower and you're guaranteeing a view as spectacular as the food. Or experience the city's remarkable fusion food at DaiLo (French-Cantonese), El Catrin (Mexican-French) and the unexpected mashup of Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian).
The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of a food scene to rival any city on earth, with options to suit every taste and any budget.
How to get around Toronto is perfect to explore on foot or via a growing network of cycle routes. For a quicker journey, buy a Presto card to use the TTC, Toronto's subway, streetcar and bus system.
How to get there Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) with United and you're around 15 miles west of the city center. The most comfortable route in is via the Union Pearson Express, which runs every 15 minutes and gets you downtown in 25 minutes ($13).The TTC is a cheaper option at under $5, but it can take an hour and a half and involves a number of transfers, while a taxi will take around 30 minutes and cost $45.
United flies to Toronto from numerous U.S. cities including our Hub city locations. Book your trip via united.com or by downloading the United app.
Around the web
Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to Melbourne (MEL) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.