Hispanic Heritage Month: To Hispanics, The Family is Sacred


September is Hispanic Heritage Month, during this month we celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of individuals whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. At Harbor House, it gives us such joy to be able to celebrate our diversity as a melting pot of values, beliefs, and cultures. To be able to provide some great perspective on Hispanic Heritage and the barriers that Latino women face right here in Northeast Wisconsin, Kimberly De La Cruz, Harbor House Crisis Advocate, and Michelle Ruhl-Ortiz, a Harbor House Women’s Advocate share their thoughts.

Values and belief systems are often things that are handed down from generation to generation and to the Hispanic population, the family is sacred. It’s not uncommon to have multiple generations within a home as it’s important to show respect and care for those who came before you. But with this belief system, comes challenges that Latino women face when they find themselves in an unhealthy relationship. 

Domestic violence is not talked about so much in the Hispanic community. It is a hush-hush subject, especially with the older generation. Culturally marriage is very sacred and divorce is frowned upon. So to go and get help from an organization may lead others to believe that you are breaking up your family. Especially when there are children in the home,” says Kimberly. In addition to these cultural beliefs, the Hispanic community faces other more complex challenges, like Michelle states, “I feel that the biggest barriers that people face would be access to culturally appropriate services, language barriers and fear to reach out due to immigration status.”

For us at Harbor House, it is especially important for us to recognize these values and belief systems so that we can best serve Latino women within both Calumet and Outagamie counties. “At Harbor House, we are lucky enough to have staff members that can communicate in Spanish with survivors of domestic violence, but it absolutely goes beyond that.  As an agency and staff, I think that we do a really decent job of understanding the barriers that the Latino population face when trying to reach out for services. We have a good reputation in the community for offering assistance and many women arrive here by word of mouth,” says Michelle

Much of what we do on a daily basis is listening. Listening to understand our community and their needs. Listening to understand the women and children who walk in our doors each day. And listening to truly understand the cultures and beliefs of all populations that we serve. 

As Michelle gracefully states, “We reach the Latino community by continuing to learn about what the barriers are, as well as continuing to be involved in events and other cultural experiences. If we are visual to the community, more people will trust that we are truly here to help them and seek to understand the need.”