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Dana Warrior blogs about "Familia" during Hispanic Heritage Month

“Anytime you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” – Roberto Clemente, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, posthumous recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom

The WWE Universe is made up of a wonderfully diverse collection of people. We come from the far corners of the world with backgrounds as different as the Superstars we watch battle each week. Within WWE, we are connected by a common love for the brand, even when we find our favorite Superstars in opposition. 

We are Family.

In the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, the feeling of family is strong. Latino and Hispanic influences of la Familia are things I’ve been blessed to experience in WWE as well as the predominantly Hispanic community in which I’ve lived the last 16-plus years. I am privileged to call Santa Fe, N.M., home and the lessons I’ve learned of la Familia are sewn into the fabric of the Warrior family.

Immersed in Hispanic culture and customs I see the richness of tradition, the pride of origin, the love of family and the inclusive nature of la Familia. New Mexican traditions have become our own alongside the community in which we are embraced. Every September, “Que viva la fiesta” is on the lips of all. Every age gathers to stuff “Zozobra,” Santa Fe’s “Old Man Gloom,” with the worries of the year past. This marionette effigy, standing over 50 feet tall, is lit aflame with fireworks, and burns all those worries as a symbol of purifying the past. As the smoke ebbs, the year ahead stands clear for celebration with food, music, art, friends y la Familia – all the elements prevalent in the richness of Hispanic culture.

Along with cuisine, culture, holiday traditions and the smell of hatch green chiles roasting on street corners each fall, New Mexico boasts of epic historical breakthroughs. Octaviano Larrazolo became the first Hispanic man elected to the U.S. Senate leading the way for Dennis Chavez to be the first U.S. born Hispanic to become a U.S. Senator.

Hispanic Heritage Month highlights men and women who have enriched the lives of all of us with their bravery, ingenuity, integrity, intelligence, talent, invention, art, leadership and words. Among our WWE ranks there are honored Hispanic contributors in every aspect of operation. We have Superstars spanning Then, Now, Forever who embody and exemplify the population Hispanic Heritage Month honors.

I was fortunate to speak with WWE Superstar Kalisto, who was proud to share his most admired Hispanic icons as well as his love and admiration for other Hispanic leaders.

“Some of the most influential people in my life have been Julio César Chávez, Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero. All of these men have been pioneers in their area of expertise,” Kalisto said. “Julio César Chávez is Mexico’s greatest boxer and one of the best boxers of all time with a record of 107 wins. Julio César Chávez inspired me as an athlete and I wanted to accomplish greatness just as he did.”

Kalisto spoke about identifying with ground-breakers and icons within WWE, like Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio.

“In a wrestling aspect, Eddie and Rey were my biggest inspirations. I connected with them because they are both Mexican-American, like me. I felt a sense of identity. I thought to myself I would finally have someone I could relate to,” Kalisto explained.

“Not only did they inspire me culturally, but they are also inspirational because they have accomplished great things in sports-entertainment. When Rey became WWE Champion, I knew I wanted to accomplish the same one day. As we all know, I am not the largest guy on the roster and so my entire life I have never let my size limit me.”

Kalisto has indeed shown it is the size of his heart and his desire, his gana, to lead the way, guided by important community leaders and safe places to grow in all ways like Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

“As a child, the Boys & Girls Club was an escape for me – a place where I felt safe from the crime-ridden streets of Chicago,” Kalisto said. “Boys & Girls Club allowed me to be creative in a safe place with individuals who a made a difference in my life. I am so thankful to have been a part of Boys & Girls Club growing up because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Kalisto has a desire to give back to kids who have a choice before them. He is passionate in advocating for kids making choices that benefit their future the way he did.

“Most kids I grew up with turned to gangs to feel a sense of belonging. Gangs are still a problem today, and we see a lot of young people in them,” Kalisto explained. “I want to let young people know that I survived and overcame those obstacles. Joining gangs is not the option. There’s so much more out there. The possibilities are endless if you dream and work hard. This is why I say #imagineluchaachieve.”

Kalisto’s story is truly inspiring. There’s a man behind the mask to be admired and behind that man is an equally inspiring woman – Kalisto’s wife, Abigail Rodriguez.

“I had to work extra hard,” Rodriguez said about earning her MSW and MBA. “It’s not easy for Latinos to get an education, but I’m trying to make a difference. I dreamed of being at the top, and I’m not going to give up.”

Rodriguez’s belief in education and her determination to lead the way with not one, but two master’s degrees is aspirational! The constant refrain from the galaxy of inspirational figures proud of their fight is: work hard, dream big, never quit and Always Believe.

Hispanic Heritage Month highlights the struggles and triumphs of dignitaries and influential groundbreakers in every area of life. I’m always amazed by the culture’s warmth in my own community. I am inspired by how rich and life-affirming the traditions are, even in relation to death.

Día de los Muertos — “Day of the Dead” — became recognized as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” It became an important holiday in our home after Mattigan researched and produced a project on the tradition. Although Day of the Dead is sometimes confused with Halloween, the two are not related. Instead, Día de los Muertos is a two-day celebration honoring those no longer with us. The dead are still revered as important members of la Familia and the community.

There is a belief that mourning the dead is disrespectful. Instead, the fall celebration reminds the community that death is a natural crossroads of a soul’s journey on life’s long highway. The celebration unfolds over a two-day period with vibrant colors, costumes, skeletons, skulls, music, food, flowers, decorations and belief. The community welcomes deceased loved ones who journey home to gather and feast once more!

I believe in sugar skulls and marigold petal trails. I believe in green chili, mariachi bands, farolitos and biscochitos. I believe in the love and inclusiveness of the Hispanic culture and the beauty of the time-honored traditions we are all invited to embrace. I believe in those who proudly proclaim their Hispanic Heritage and show our WWE Universe the meaning of la Familia ... Always!!

xo, d

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Hispanic Heritage Month

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