Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Dr. Hector Flores

Hispanic Heritage Month is an international celebration held from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. This month, we’ve asked faculty, staff and students to share what their Hispanic heritage means to them, as well as how the culture has shaped who they are and how others can learn from their experiences.

In this Q&A, Dr. Hector Flores, Hispanic mentor and Lamar University dean of students and associate vice president of the Division of Student Engagement, shares his background, culture and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him and his family. 

Q: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? 
A: Hispanic Heritage Month is a significant time for me, especially being Hispanic. It is a time of the year when we can focus on Hispanic contributions which helped shape this country's history. From its inception, Hispanics contributed to this country's success. For example, Bernardo de Gálvez supplied soldiers, provided resources and fought alongside revolutionary forces against the British during the American Revolution. Or Lorenzo de Zavala, the first vice president of the Republic of Texas, and Captain Juan Seguin, who both fought for Texas independence. Additionally, 61 Hispanics have been awarded the Medal of Honor for service in all major conflicts. As a Marine Corps veteran, I feel strongly that these types of contributions and sacrifices must be acknowledged and recognized for their importance to our country's rich history. Our culture is interwoven into U.S. society, too. 

Q: How has this culture shaped who you are today? 
A: My Hispanic heritage and Latino culture are deeply ingrained in who I am as a person. The language I learned as a young boy, the music I listened to, the foods I enjoyed growing up and the customs and traditions all contribute to how I interact with others as an adult. Dr. Hector Flores 
Celebrating various cultures and experiences is a great way to learn and grow as people. I enjoy sharing my background and experiences with friends and coworkers because I think we all should share our backgrounds to understand one another better. Community and family are probably the most prominent aspects rooted in Hispanic culture. As a leader, I try to bring those cultural aspects to Lamar University so we can all learn and share those experiences. 

Q: What is something that you wished others knew about Hispanic Heritage month that they maybe don't already know? 
A: I want people to know that Hispanics contribute significantly to our economy and drive growth. There are more than 60 million Latinos in the U.S., about 18% of the population as of 2017, and it has increased by 4.7% since then. Among minority groups in the U.S., Hispanics are now the largest minority group in our country. For example, Hispanics now account for about 40% of Texas's population–making it the largest group in the state. Furthermore, Hispanics earned over $1.2 trillion in 2021 and paid $308.5 billion in taxes. This growth and economic impact show how Hispanics are a significant economic engine for the US economy. Understanding these figures helps us know how essential our contributions are for everyone's success in the U.S. 

Q: What advice (both personal and professional) would you give to young Hispanic/Latino students? 
A: My advice to young Hispanic and Latino students at Lamar University would be to connect to our community through the LU Hispanic Society and Mentors. I'd like them to know that we are here to listen, guide and support them as they go through one of life's most formidable challenges–graduating from college. Hispanic students are always free to visit with other mentors or me to discuss work, school and life. We want them to succeed and share their experiences with the next group of students joining them as freshmen, too. This sense of community is essential as they go on to participate in the workforce and I hope they learn that they need to network and help others along the way. 

Q: What are some cultural traditions that you hold close to your heart? 
A: I have a few favorite Hispanic traditions that I've carried over from childhood and shared with extended family. First, I enjoy getting together with family and friends for a large carne asada, or BBQ, on the 4th of July. As a veteran and a Latino, I like to take the time to celebrate and enjoy visiting and laughing with people I care about over food and music. 

Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to your Hispanic heritage? 
A: The one thing I am most proud of regarding my Hispanic heritage is the ability to understand and speak Spanish. It allows me to communicate with Latinos that may not know English yet. It also allows me to communicate with older generations of Hispanics who have much to share about our heritage and history. As a history student, I appreciate people's experiences and perspectives and like to ask questions about our shared cultures. Knowing two languages facilitates my ability to communicate with significantly more people across generations and backgrounds.