Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 Celebrated by State Department

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, the U.S. government celebrates the countless contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans to our culture and society. Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the United States today, and generations of Hispanic Americans have consistently helped make our country strong and prosperous. They contribute to our Nation beyond description. Hispanic Americans embody the best of our American values, including commitment to faith, family, and country. They serve in our military and protect us as members of law enforcement. In fact, Hispanic Americans make up half of our Border Patrol agents. The Hispanic-American community has left an indelible mark on our government, culture, and economy.

The Department of State celebrates America’s rich Hispanic history and culture with National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 – October 15. National Hispanic Heritage Month, with roots going back to 1968, celebrates the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this period. Columbus Day in Mexico (Día de la Raza) is on October 12.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the contributions and the important presence of Hispanic and Latin Americans in the U.S. and within the Department of State. In commemoration of the 2021 National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Department highlights biographies of outstanding Hispanic employees who support diplomatic efforts around the world.

Secretary Blinken said, “We honor the achievements of the more than 60 million Hispanic-Americans this #HispanicHeritageMonth, who strengthen our nation every day. We’re especially grateful for the countless contributions of Hispanic-Americans in the U.S. Department of State. We’re proud to have you on our team.”

Marcia Anglarill joined the Foreign Service in 2003 and is currently the Cultural Affairs Officer (CAO) for the Venezuela Affairs Unit. Prior assignments include PD Desk Officer for Andean Affairs in WHA, CAO at Embassy Hanoi, Cultural Coordinator for EAP/PD, Public Affairs Officer at Consulate General Peshawar, and Assistant Information Officer at Embassy Bogota. She also served as a Pol/Econ Officer at Consulate General Monterrey and Consular Officer in Ho Chi Minh City.

Maria Macarena Apud is an Economic Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affair’s Office of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination (WHA/EPSC). She is the lead action officer for WHA participation in economic infrastructure related initiatives and analyzes and provides policy guidance on economic trends and extra-regional economic influence to advance U.S. foreign policy in the region. She started her career at the Department on the Colombia desk. Maria Macarena is the current Vice President for Civil Service for the Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies, a founding member of WHA’s Diversity Council, and a 2018 International Career Advancement Program Fellow.

Carlo James Aragón serves as Vice Consul at the U.S. Embassy in Nepal. Carlo and his husband are proud natives of New Mexico. Carlo is of mixed Indo-Hispano and Filipino decent. He graduated from the University of New Mexico and the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Prior to the Foreign Service, worked in Arabic language and education abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, where he co-founded the Noor Majan Arabic Institute-Muscat Campus.

Gabriela Arias Villela serves as the Public Diplomacy Officer for the Nordic, Baltic, and Arctic. She joined the Foreign Service in 2013, served her first two tours in Santo Domingo and Shanghai as a consular officer, and most recently as the Desk Officer for Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and Malta. Prior to that, she worked in WHA’s Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs for two years. She received a master’s degree from Georgetown University in Latin American studies and attended the College of William & Mary for her undergraduate degree. Gabriela is a native Spanish and Portuguese speaker, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami, FL.

Elder Arreortua joined the Foreign Service in April 2021 and is excited share his diverse personal and professional experience with State. As a Construction Engineer Specialist, Elder supports OBO’s (the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations) work on American embassies, consulates, and buildings abroad. Elder is currently supporting the NEA region with projects in Tunisia and Israel. As a Southern California native, Elder brings to the DC area his Spanish-speaking skills along with his interests in food, live performance events, and exercise, all while keeping a curious eye on the world.

Oscar Avila is the Information Officer at U.S. Embassy Riga. Since joining the State Department in 2011 as a PD-coned officer, he has served as Public Affairs Officer in Reykjavik, Consular Officer in Taipei and Cultural Affairs Officer in San Jose. Before joining the Department, he worked as a reporter for major daily newspapers, including a stint as a Mexico-based correspondent. Oscar is of Bolivian descent and enjoys reconnecting with Bolivian cuisine when in Washington. A Kansas native, Oscar grew up speaking Spanish and has achieved proficiency in Russian and Mandarin Chinese and earned the Sinclaire Language Award for outstanding study of Icelandic.

Nicole Bermudez is a Political Officer from California who joined Embassy Kuwait in August 2021 for her first tour. She received a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School and holds a Bachelor of Science in Politics from Bates College. Nicole completed a virtual internship with the Department of State in Summer 2020 and interned with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in Summer 2019 as a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow. Nicole is the proud daughter of a Colombian immigrant who inspired her to pursue a career in international affairs and to complete a Fulbright Fellowship in Colombia from 2016-2018. In her free time, Nicole is passionate about Latin music and dance.

Miguel Besosa is a Program Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Technology and Innovation Office (INR/TIO), where he is a Contract Officer Representative (COR) handling contracts that support pioneering and secure delivery of IT infrastructure for the delivery of timely intelligence information to the bureau and other policymaking stakeholders. He also serves as a COR for other INR capabilities and he is part of INR’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Miguel joined the Department in 2015 as a Program Analyst for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Prior to INL, Miguel worked for the private sector as a Plans & Strategic Support Subject Matter Expert.

Yaneth Birch works as a Passport Specialist at the Seattle Passport Agency (CA/PPT/SE). She joined the Department of State through the Recent Graduate Program. She is also pursuing her second master’s degree at American University studying International Relations with a concentration in Public Diplomacy and International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and is currently learning German.

Originally from Bowie, Maryland, Miguel Boluda joined the Department as a Foreign Service Officer in June 2019. He is public diplomacy coned and currently serving in his first tour at the U.S. Consulate General in São Paulo. Prior to joining the service, Miguel worked for the United States Senate and then completed a master’s degree at Georgetown University. He has also previously completed internships at the U.S. Embassies in Moscow and Bogota.

Maria E. Brewer, current nominee as the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho, recently served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone. During her 25 year career, Ambassador Brewer has served in the Office of Career Development and Assignments, as Deputy Chief of Mission of U.S. Embassy Nigeria, as well as in Islamabad, Colombo, and Mumbai. She earned a B.A. from Valparaiso University and an M.S. from National Defense University. She speaks Spanish, Krio, and Hindi.

Nora S. Brito joined the Department as a Foreign Service Officer in 2014. Nora is currently the Environment, Science, Technology, and Science Officer at U.S. Embassy Mexico City. Previously, Nora was an Advisor to the Special Representative for Venezuela in Washington, DC. Nora also served as a Political Officer in Caracas and Consular Officer in Port-of-Spain. Nora is the recipient of the AFSA Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy and the CFR International Affairs Fellowship. Nora is a former Pickering Fellow and holds an M.A. from Johns Hopkins SAIS and a B.A. from American University. Born to an Ecuadorian mother and Dominican father, Nora is originally from New York and grew up in Ecuador.

Lidice Calero Calafell is a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. She is part of the Global Affairs team working on civil society and human rights defenders’ issues. During her tenure with the Department, Lidice has also served for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The Department has given Lidice the opportunity to learn new languages, serve overseas, and hone her professional skill-set. Lidice holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida, a master’s degree in Intelligence from Michigan State University, and a Juris Doctor from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Luis Calvo began his tour as Sudan Desk Officer in July 2020. Prior to that, he was a participant in the Pathways Student Programs at the U. S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA). He worked in the CA office of the executive Human Resource division while completing his master’s degree at George Washington University. Luis also worked as a campus coordinator assisting the diplomat in residence while completing his undergrad at Florida International University.

Aracely Chiquillo serves as a contractor in the HR Classification Branch of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Prior to that, she worked in the HR Division for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, and the Bureau of Consular Affairs. As a former eligible family member, Aracely has worked at the U.S. Embassies in Moscow and Bogota. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and San Francisco State University. Born in San Salvador, El Salvador, Aracely came to earn a college education in the United States. At the College of San Mateo, she and other Central American students formed a folk-dance group and performed at college events, public schools, and other associations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jason Cubas is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service currently serving as the Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. Prior to this, he was the Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State in Washington, DC. Previously he served as the Supervisory General Services Officer in Tokyo; Deputy Consul General in Basrah; and Principal Officer in Fukuoka. Mr. Cubas has a J.D. from the University of Miami, School of Law; a B.A. in History from Florida International University; and was a graduate student of medieval Japanese history at the University of Miami Graduate School. He speaks Spanish and Japanese and is married with two children.

Stephanie Garza joined the Foreign Service in 2010 as a Human Resources Specialist. Stephanie’s first overseas tour was as Deputy Human Resources Officer (HRO) in Vienna. Her following assignments included tours in Islamabad and Moscow. She held the position of HRO for Embassy Caracas and experienced two evacuations and the eventual closing of the embassy during this assignment. Stephanie was then assigned as the Senior HRO for Mission Mexico. She was extremely proud to hold this position in the land that her father is from. She is currently assigned to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Stephanie has a B.A. in Human Resource Management from Purdue University. She is joined in every country by her jet-setting dog Delilah.

Kevin Gonzalez is a Special Agent serving at the U.S. Embassy in Ireland. He is responsible for the direction of the embassy’s security resources, budget, and personnel to facilitate the safe and successful conduct of U.S. diplomacy in Ireland. He has served in Iraq, China, Washington DC, Mozambique, and New York. He began his career with the Diplomatic Security Service, the federal law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State, in 2008. He is from Los Angeles, and speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Mandarin.

Paloma Gonzalez is a Foreign Service Officer with 12-years’ experience. She currently is the Deputy Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. Paloma’s previous assignments include: Colombia Counternarcotics Policy Lead for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and Haiti Program Officer; Political and Economic Chief for the U.S. Consulate General in Recife, Brazil; Staff Assistant for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; American Citizen Services Officer in Tijuana, Mexico; and Political Officer in Bogota, Colombia. From 2017-18, Paloma was a foreign policy advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of the prestigious Pearson Fellowship.

Natalie Guerrero joined the Foreign Service in 2011 and has served as an Office Manager for the Political Section at the U.S. Embassy in Paris and Madrid; the Economic Section in Caracas; and the Regional Security Office in Frankfurt and Tokyo. Some highlights of her career have been supporting a Repatriation Mission for 150 passengers and 250 diplomatic pouches and medical supplies on 51 flights over five days via the Spanish Gando Air Base; serving as control officer for several ministerial visits, as well as Congressional and staff delegations; coordinating an Aviation Security Conference; leading an election observation team; and facilitating a U.S. Women’s Soccer Sports Envoy.

Melissa Ledesma-Leese is the Chief of Staff for the Bureau of Global Talent Management. She served as Deputy Advisor of GTM’s Diversity and Inclusion Unit; Consular Chief for the Embassy in Lesotho; and Fraud Prevention Programs for Consular Affairs. She joined the Department in 2006. She earned her BA from Bowling Green State University. During her undergraduate days, she starred in a theatre production called “De Donde?” – Spanish for, “Where are you from?” This play introduced her to issues in immigration law, and she decided to enroll in law school, earning her JD from the University of Toledo. She enjoys theatre and traveling with her husband and son all over the world.

Megan Lysaght (she/hers) is a Program Officer in the Office of Academic Exchanges for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Ms. Lysaght has a three-part global portfolio, wherein she: 1) manages the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program; 2) is lead coordinator on Fulbright events; and 3) is Vice Chair of the ECA Academic Exchange Office’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. Hailing from Ventura, CA, Ms. Lysaght is the first in her family to go to college and earned both her BA and Master in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University, a proud HSI. Ms. Lysaght served as a Peace Corps Community Economic Development Volunteer in Azerbaijan where she met her now-wife.

Erica Marrero is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey, where she leads the Consulate’s public outreach in southern and eastern Turkey. Previously, she was a Staff Assistant in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Erica also served at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels and in New Delhi, India. She earned a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She credits her mother, a professor of Spanish and Latin American literature, for sparking her interest in exploring different cultures, and her Navy veteran father for instilling a sense of public service.

Carlos F. Matus is a special agent with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) currently serving as the Acting Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. DS is responsible for delivering effective law enforcement and security to safeguard U.S. foreign policy interests around the world. Mr. Matus is a 34-year veteran of the Department of State, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor, and has served in over 17 domestic and overseas assignments.

Manuel “Manny” Medrano is a Civil Servant, born in Mexico and grew up in New Mexico. He currently works as Cybersecurity Lead for the Cloud Program Management Office in the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM). Manny joined the Department in 2011 as an Information Systems Security Officer. Manny is passionate about promoting security and technology as an enabler to the mission. Prior to IRM, he was the Deputy Division Chief for Cyber Threat Intelligence in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security where he championed collaboration with the private sector to make threat intelligence actionable. Manuel also served in Afghanistan on a project funded by USAID while working at New Mexico State University.

Freddy Raul Mendez, a first-generation Virginia native, is a Foreign Service IT Manager who joined the Department in 2003. He has held overseas postings in: La Paz, Helsinki, Managua, Geneva, Sydney, and Bratislava. In 2018, Freddy attended the Information Resource Management’s (IRM) Long-Term Executive Development Program and obtained a Chief Information Officer certificate from the National Defense University (NDU). In August 2021, Freddy completed a two-year assignment as Strategy Branch Chief for IRM’s Mobile and Remote Access Division. Freddy helped craft the strategic direction of mobility, evaluate emerging mobile technologies, and shift the Department to a new telework-capable culture.

Moises Mendoza is a Colombian-American Foreign Service Officer currently working as a Washington, D.C.-based Desk Officer covering Central American Affairs. Moises previously served as Consular Officer in Matamoros, Mexico and Political Officer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was the 2020 recipient of the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad and the 2019 winner of the W. Averell Harriman Award for Constructive Dissent by an Entry Level Officer. Moises holds master’s degrees from Columbia University and the Hertie School of Governance, a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and is a proud alumnus of the Charles B. Rangel Fellowship Program. He speaks French, German, and Spanish.

Joaquin F. Monserrate, a native of Puerto Rico, (re)joined the Office of Andean Affairs at WHA as Director last August, having completed a tour as DCM at the Embassy for the Eastern Caribbean in Barbados. He has also served in Mexico City, Indonesia twice, Cuba, Vietnam, and India. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he practiced law and worked as a journalist in San Juan. He graduated from Georgetown and the University of Puerto Rico, and met his wife while on third year abroad studies in England. He loves sports and is equally unskillful at all the ones he practices.

Rene Moraida is a Civil Servant based in Washington, D.C., serving in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs’ Office of Global Social Media. He previously was a Veterans Innovation Partnership Fellow, serving as a Foreign Affairs Officer in WHA’s Office of Caribbean Affairs. A native Texan, Rene is of indigenous, Mexican, Spanish, and Portuguese descent, and is a proud member of the Latinx, LGBTQIA+, and Veterans communities at the State Department.

Monica Morales joined the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in September 2018 as the Administrative Management Specialist in the Office of Inspections. Before joining OIG, she was the Office Management Assistant for the ECON and EST Sections at U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires, ECON Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Administrative Assistant for the Force Protective Detachment in Panama, CLO at U.S. Embassy Asuncion, and Consular Associate in U.S. Embassy Bucharest. Monica was born in Santiago, Chile and began her life as a Foreign Service spouse in 1988. She studied Environmental Engineering in Santiago. She is married to a Foreign Service Officer and has 3 children and a pet parrot, Chiriqui.

Sergio Moreno is a Foreign Service Officer currently serving as ACS Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Born and raised in Houston, Sergio earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. His other overseas assignments were in Mexico City, Warsaw, Afghanistan (Bagram Air Field), and Madrid.  He has also served in WHA as a desk officer for Bolivia and Venezuela, and as a Special Assistant in CA. Sergio and his wife have three children.

Daniela Nevarez entered the Department of State through the Pathways Program in 2016. Daniela serves as a Bilateral Engagement Officer at the Office of Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, where she manages a portfolio of countries from the WHA region. Previously, Daniela worked in the EUR region, leading efforts to promote the Hague Adoption Convention. Daniela earned her M.A. from George Washington University and her B.A. from Austin College in her home state of Texas. Originally from Fort Worth, TX, and a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, Daniela is a strong supporter of showcasing opportunities for higher education within the Hispanic Community at a young age.

Alexis Nieves is a U.S. Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the Vice Consul in Madrid, Spain. Alexis’ first assignment was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he served as the Economic Officer. Previously he worked short stints in the Office of Cuban Affairs – Bureau of Western Hemisphere and at the U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva in the Office of Humanitarian Affairs. Alexis holds a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

As a career diplomat, Abigail Olvera combatted visa fraud, issued visas, and assisted Americans in crisis in her first posting in Dakar, Senegal. For her second posting, Abi worked closely with Egyptian government officials, investment and development bankers, and financial institutions in connection with reforms related to Egypt’s $12 billion IMF program. Now, at the Department of State’s headquarters in Washington, she is the Desk Officer in charge of cybersecurity and law enforcement matters at the China bilateral unit in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. She was a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow, interning at the U.S. Mission to the Organization to American States and the U.S. Embassy in Nepal.

A San Antonio native, Greg Pardo is in WHA’s Migration Working Group. He’s served as a political officer on the Israel and Palestinian Affairs desk, PD desk officer for India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh desk and served in India on consular and PD tours. His first assignment was on the Cuba desk. His past DEI work includes serving as HECFAA president, co-founding the SCA D&I Working Group, and recruiting for the Pickering and Rangel Fellowship. He’s a graduate of St. Mary’s University and the LBJ School at the University of Texas.

Manuel (Manny) Peralta is posted to Osaka, Japan for his first Foreign Service assignment. In his seven-year tenure at State, he most recently worked in INL overseeing foreign assistance programs in Central America. He has also served overseas at U.S. Embassy Mexico City and Embassy Caracas. A Phoenix native of Mexican heritage, he has a B.A. from Arizona State and an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Manuel Pereira Colocci designs TechCamp, a program that creates connections, sparks innovation, and empowers civil society to solve the world’s pressing challenges through technology. He served as Senior Program Designer in ECA’s Public-Private Partnerships Unit facilitating implementation of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs in support of a White House-led women’s economic empowerment initiative. A native Uruguayan, he graduated from UCF and is completing an Executive Master of Arts at ASU’s Thunderbird. His experience teaching in Brazil, administering Fulbright exchanges, and moderating panels at comic book conventions has built an affinity for how people share stories and build relationships.

Abdel Perera joined the U.S. Department of State in 2014. He is currently serving as a Line Officer in the Executive Secretariat Staff. Previously, Abdel served as the Deputy Consular Section Chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Milan and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassies in Buenos Aires and Islamabad. A product of the U.S. State Department internship and fellowship programs, he worked at U.S. missions in Uruguay, Peru, Mumbai, and Washington, D.C. Abdel immigrated to the United States from Cuba and calls Miami his hometown.

Walter Quintanilla is a PD-coned Foreign Service Officer. A Los Angeles native, Walter earned a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Southern California. An avid martial artist in his younger years, Walter credits various international tournaments in Japan to igniting his interest in a Foreign Service career. Before the Foreign Service, Walter studied French Literature in Paris, interned at U.S. Embassy Congo-Brazzaville, and conducted graduate-level research in Addis Ababa. Walter’s previous tours include Beijing and Tegucigalpa. He currently works for Press and Public Diplomacy in the African Affairs Bureau and will transition to the Tunisia policy desk this winter.

José Ramírez-Rivera currently serves as a Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center. He is a political-coned officer. His most recent overseas assignment was Bogota, Colombia, where he worked as a Consular Officer. His first tour was in Panama City, Panama as a rotational Political and Consular Officer. José joined the Foreign Service as a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a BA in International Studies from American University’s School of International Service. He proudly hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Orlando L. Rivera joined Consular Affairs in 2002, as the New York Passport Agency’s Assistant Director. In 2005, he was selected to serve as Director of the Philadelphia Passport Agency. From dealing with the New York City 2003 “brownout” and daily long lines of passport applicants or managing the high demand for passports in 2007; to providing support to the Bureau during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; or leading the agency’s COVID-19 “Mission Critical Team,” his mantra is “Lead by Example” and “Develop the Next Generation.”

Maurilio Rojano-Garcia, RSO Lisbon, has served DS since 2002 in assignments ranging from Joint Terrorism Task Force to Senior Desk Officer for WHA at DS HQs’ International Program Directorate. Born in Mexico City, Maurilio immigrated to the U.S. at a young age. He regularly represents the Department at events focused on diversity and has represented DS at the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association. His degree in finance, language skills and awards attest to his conviction: inclusiveness benefits the Department, enabling us to better meet challenges.

Isabel Romero is a Security Program Officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Overseas Protective Operations. Her portfolio covers Bolivia, Costa Rica, Peru, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Honduras. She has worked in three functional bureaus: Diplomatic Security, Consular Affairs, and the Foreign Service Institute. She holds a M.A. in International Security and B.A. in Global Affairs from George Mason University. Isabel is the President of the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA) Executive Board. She previously served as the Chair of the DS Council for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. She is also active in Executive Women at State, WCAPS, and En Voz Alta.

José Luis Salazar is a Language and Cultural Instructor, Learning Consultant, and Tester in the Spanish Section at The Foreign Service Institute (FSI). He is from Venezuela and started working at FSI in 2008. José holds a law degree, master’s degree in Penal Law, and a University Teaching Training-Course Certificate from the University Santa Maria, Caracas. His work has been recognized through awards including Franklin Awards, Superior Honor Award, and the prestigious Una Chapman Cox Foundation Award for Excellence in Language Teaching in 2018. This award recognizes exceptional teaching and dedication to helping Foreign Service personnel acquire the language proficiency they need to succeed overseas.

Melissa M. Sandoval has served as an Economic Officer and Commercial Attaché in Port-au-Prince, Haïti, and as Deputy Consular Chief in Belmopan, Belize. Ms. Sandoval is currently serving as a Kenya Desk Officer in Washington. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in 2015, Ms. Sandoval was a Political Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in Washington with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Ms. Sandoval speaks Spanish, French and Haitian Creole. She holds an M.A. in International Relations from American University and a B.A. in Public Health from Franklin & Marshall College. She is an alumna of the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.

Eila Sepulveda joined the Foreign Service in January of 2013 and is currently the Deputy General Services Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota where she supports logistics for over 40 agencies. She previously spent three years as the Program Manager for Peru and the Judicial Studies Institute portfolios in INL/WHP designing and monitoring law enforcement and justice sector programming in the Western Hemisphere. She has also served as a Consular Officer in Mexico City and as a GSO in EAP/EX. Eila holds a M.A. in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. in history from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez Campus and is fluent in Spanish. Her husband and two-year-old son live with her in Bogota.

Monica E. Skinner was born in Lima, Peru. She joined the Department in 2003. Monica is a Foreign Service IT Manager who held overseas assignments in Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Montevideo, and Islamabad. She currently works at the Regional Information Management Center in Frankfurt. In Washington, Monica worked for the Secretary of State Mobile Communication Office, traveling extensively to support the Department’s diplomatic mission. Later, Monica joined FSI as the Information Resource Management Bureau New-Hires Program Manager. Monica has a B.S. in Management Information Systems from George Mason University and an M.S. in Government Information and Leadership from the National Defense University.

Demian Smith is serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Tirana, Albania. He has served in India, Serbia, Thailand, and New Zealand. His DC assignments include Chief of Staff to the Counselor, EAP Special Assistant, and the Policy Planning Staff. He previously worked at The Atlantic Council and has degrees from the College of William and Mary and the National Defense University. Demian is the proud son of Berta Llera, originally from Mexico.

Sandra Story joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 2019. She was born and raised in Colombia. She attended Marymount University, George Washington University, and the University of Notre Dame. As the first Hispanic to hold the position of Regional English Language Officer, Sandra is thrilled to start her first overseas tour in Manama, Bahrain in the fall, where she will promote public diplomacy through English programs in eight countries in the Gulf region.

C. Eduardo Vargas Toro is a Program Coordinator and Foreign Affairs Officer in DRL/WHA overseeing human rights in the Andean Region and Haiti. Previously, he served as USAID’s Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives and Senior Communications Officer for USAID/Guatemala. He has been recognized by the Huffington Post’s 40 Under 40 in Foreign Policy and New America Foundation’s Latino National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders. Eduardo, a Colombian-American, earned his MA in International Relations at Seton Hall University.

Johanna Villalobos is the long-term Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay where she coordinates the policies and resources of U.S. and local employees from multiple federal U.S. government agencies. As the Public Affairs Officer in Paraguay, she manages the integration of public diplomacy strategy into interagency planning and policy decisions. Johanna has served in several regional and functional positions throughout her almost two decades with the Department. Johanna is an alumna of the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship and the International Career Advancement Program.

Sandra Zuniga Guzman is a Line Officer with the Executive Secretariat. Before then, she served as a consular officer in Hanoi, supporting the expansion of the U.S.-Vietnam adoptions program. Sandra has also served as the economic and commercial officer in Guyana and on the Venezuela desk. She is an alum of the Pickering Graduate Affairs Fellowship and holds a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International studies. Born in Lima, Peru, Sandra is fluent in Spanish; she also speaks some French and Vietnamese.


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