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Hispanic Heritage Month Feature: Heckmuller Reflects On Mexican-American Upbringing

Hispanic Heritage Month Feature: Heckmuller Reflects On Mexican-American Upbringing

KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 14, 2016) – In the United States of America, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each year from Sept. 15 until Oct. 15. It is a time when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to our country and celebrate the groups' heritages and cultures.
 
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Athletics Department currently boasts over 15 Hispanic-American student-athletes – as well as two staff members – on over half of its teams. One of those student-athletes is senior Michael Heckmuller (Cypress, Calif.) of the men's soccer team.
 
Heckmuller has been an integral part of the Mariners' midfield the past four years and his efforts this season have helped lead the squad to its current 8-4-2 record (7-1 Skyline), which ranks Merchant Marine in second place out of the 12 teams in the Skyline Conference. He has played in 12 games, started six of them, and has a goal and two assists to his credit thus far.
 
"Michael has been a valuable member of our squad since his arrival at the Academy," commented 27th-year Head Coach Michael Smolens. "Always a terrific team player, he has filled a number of roles for us in his four years here. Michael has come through in a number of big moments for our team and I know he will continue to work hard in order to help us reach our goals. Coming from soccer-rich Southern California and an outstanding club program (Pateadores SC) helped him in his transition to college soccer and has assisted in him being an effective player on our squad. Coach Fitzgerald, Coach Cochrane and I feel good about his contribution to our team and all he has achieved at the Academy, and we feel strongly that he will succeed following graduation."
 
On Friday, Heckmuller shared with USMMASports.com his reflection of growing up in a Mexican-American household.
 
See below for his story.
 
Michael Heckmuller
10/14/2016
 
Growing up in a multi-culture household is one of the most beneficial ways to be raised as a child. It opens up the mind to the fact that there are different ways that individuals live based on their beliefs and ethnic background. This was the biggest influence growing up in a Mexican-American family; especially living in Southern California which has a high population of Latinos. I always had a sense of ease growing up; being able to understand and be a part of the different cultures that were going on around me. Southern California is littered with pockets and cities that are primarily Hispanic. In these areas it is more common to see things in Spanish than in English. Growing up I always had a sense of ease visiting carnicerias (Mexican meat shops) or taquerias (Mexican resturants) in comparison to some of my non-Hispanic friends. This was due to being around Spanish speakers, the culture, and the different foods that went along with it.
 
My extended family is relatively big. Having six aunts and uncles who were all born in Mexico and who came to the United States during their youth. Growing up we constantly had parties and celebrations which is where I inherited a majority of the culture. My favorite thing is how close Hispanic families tend to be. My tia's and tio's treat me as if I was one of their own children and this mentality reflects the typical Mexican household. If you walk into a Latino house expect to be fed. Which brings me to my next favorite – the food. Being introduced to new foods throughout my youth has encouraged me to try new things. This has helped me significantly as I've recently traveled to various nations in Asia. Having a multi-culture background has also helped with my sensitivity and respect for other cultures. Which may not be as easy for someone who grew up in a single culture household.
 
My father was born and raised in Mexico City and came to the United States at the age of fourteen. Having no roots in American Culture, he assimilated himself into the inner-cities of Los Angeles, California, graduated high-school, and then finished his bachelor's degree by age 20. Throughout his career he found his calling as an educator working his way up to the administrations department and ultimately becoming an elementary school principal. He has worked in inner-city schools across Los Angeles making significant changes to how schools approach education. The inner cities are heavily populated by African Americans and Hispanics and are known to be stricken with poverty and crime. My father chooses to work in these areas as it gives him a sense of giving back to communities in which he was initially a part of. To me, I think this is the epitome of the American dream. My consideration for others and desire to give back is a direct reflection of the life of my father. Which he obtained through his life growing up as a Mexican-American.
 
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