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.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.