Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month beyond labels

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lauren Jacoby
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing

As the vibrant colors of Hispanic Heritage Month grace communities across the nation, many individuals find this is a time for joyful celebration, cultural explorations and a chance to connect with their roots. However, some individuals may find themselves questioning: “Am I Hispanic enough?”

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Macie Tayco-Gonzalez, 60th Force Support Squadron military personnel flight officer in charge, was born and raised in the United States in a multicultural family. Her father is Filipino, and her mother is of Mexican and Caucasian descent. She often felt the internal struggle which left her questioning herself as a Hispanic individual. 

“My parents both grew up very removed from their roots and Americanized in the culture they partake in,” Tayco-Gonzalez explained. “After I left high school, I moved in with my dad’s mom, and I took in a lot of Filipino things. I felt very connected to that, but I didn’t feel validated in a sense, like I’m not Filipino enough to celebrate my Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage, and I’m not Mexican enough to celebrate my Hispanic Heritage.” 

After moving to California from Tennessee, Tayco-Gonzalez was exposed to a more diverse community. Here, she felt more at ease as she was seeing people who shared similar appearances to herself. 

“Growing up in the South, you were either Black, White or other, so for 12 years of my life, I was other,” said Tayco-Gonzalez. “Then I moved to California, and I thought this is so cool, there are people like me.”

After high school, Tayco-Gonzalez headed off to college. There, she was accepted into the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of California - Berkeley—Det 085. This was her first step to follow her dreams of joining the military. 

“I have always had an interest in the military. My dad served 25 years in the U.S. Navy, and my brother served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps,” Tayco-Gonzalez explained. “There has always been a higher calling to service. I am the first female across both sides, and the first officer; I’m super proud.”

The United States Air Force has an incredibly diverse community. It embraces individuals from various backgrounds, cultures and experiences to work together to face modern challenges. Tayco-Gonzalez is representative of one of the smallest demographics: Female Hispanic officers. 

Over the years, Tayco-Gonzalez’ perspective evolved. She discovered that her heritage was not restricted to stereotypes, but was a living, evolving part of her identity. 

“It’s just inherent in us, we judge people based on what we see,” Tayco-Gonzalez stated. “I think it’s a matter of how you present yourself, and how you choose to identify and express yourself.”

Recognizing the diversity within the Hispanic community honors unique connections to heritage. This Hispanic Heritage Month, Tayco-Gonzalez’s journey is a reminder that heritage is not determined by a checklist of criteria, rather a deeply personal exploration of roots, traditions and experiences that molds each individual into the person they have become.