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Hispanic Heritage Month means culture, unity for central Ohio family

In Hispanic culture, family is the most important social unit and usually goes beyond the nuclear family.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — When the Rodriquez family gets together, it’s not just dinner… it’s a party!

In Hispanic culture, family is the most important social unit and usually goes beyond the nuclear family including not only parents and children, but also extended family members.

“I remember when I was growing up, out of my apartment tenement building, 16 of the 25 apartments were actually all related,” recalls Nelson Rodriquez. “All my aunts, my uncles, cousins lived there too. Everybody always lived close to each other.”

Nelson is the patriarch of the Rodriquez family. He and his ex-wife Alexandra have seven children. Each came into the marriage with one child. Together, they had two sets of twins and a daughter. Twins, Gregory and Jeremy came first. Then, twins Jalinel and Jalisha. The next child, Yarianny, arrived solo.

As Puerto Ricans living in central Ohio since 1996, they’ve watched the Hispanic population here grow by leaps and bounds.

“When we first moved here, you only had one Spanish store, it was on Hamilton Road,” Nelson told 10TV.  “You would only bump into other Spanish-speaking people every one or two days.”

According to the 2020 Census, there are now more than 521,000 Hispanic or Latino residents living in the state of Ohio. In Columbus alone, the number of Hispanic or Latino households was nearly 44,000.

Hispanic Heritage month is an opportunity for families, like the Rodriquez family, to share what makes them unique. They enjoy telling their friends and neighbors about their traditions and culture. From the food and the music to the family ties that keep them so closely connected, they are proud of their Hispanic roots.

Despite divorce, Nelson and Alexandra still share the same family values. Alexandra remarried and she includes both men in all family events.

“Life keeps going,” Alexandra says. “If we have a birthday, Nelson is going to be there. That’s because he is the grandfather, and he is my kids’ parent.”

For the Rodriquez children, straddling two different cultures can sometimes feel like living a double life.

“You go back to the home and it’s Spanish. It’s Puerto Rico. Mom is talking to you in Spanish. Mom is playing Spanish music. You’re watching Spanish TV, soap operas and Spanish news,” says Gregory. “But then, the double life is, when you go to schools everything is English.”

But whether you say it in Spanish or in English, Hispanic Americans take pride in sharing their heritage. Especially the food, the music, and the family unity of it all.

“That is culture, that is tradition also,” Alexandra told 10TV. “We are Boricua.”

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