Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation

Celebrating Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month

It's National Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.

During Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating our team's achievements and contributions to protecting and preserving the environment. This month is an opportunity to embrace this year’s theme of Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.

Our team members with Latinx and Hispanic heritage are sharing stories about their culture and how they serve communities in Washington. It’s a celebration of multiculturalism and weaving diverse cultures and traditions into our national fabric for the betterment of all.

Tony Anecito, information Technology Services
Tony Anecito

My name is Tony Anecito, but my family name was originally Espinoza and I am half Portuguese. My dad’s eight siblings were primarily born in Portugal and my grandfather and grandmother were farmers there. My grandfather changed the family name Espinoza to Anecito. He did this because the name Espinoza was

Papa Anecito walks horse and cart across a dirt road.

"Papa" Anecito used horse and wagon to transport the tannoak bark from the drying sheds to tannery buildings.

common and his farming money would often times end up in other “Espinoza” bank accounts.

I am an Enterprise Architect in Ecology’s Information Technology Services Office. I design large-scale information systems. Think of my job being similar to a house architect, but for software.

Preparing for the future

A meaningful and favorite project of mine was the Global Community Hackathon that was part of Computer Innovation and Creativity World competition for the United Nations. It focused on global communication via the blockchain. This is another type of communication that is rising in popularity and can be used for connecting organizations. Securing the information will be important to government agencies.

During this project, I met some really great people from Peru and Columbia. They mentored event participants from around the world and we became good friends.

Helping people and the planet

I strongly believe in helping others and not just people, but our planet. I continue to extend my work on my own time but on a global scale. I work on wildfire maps and pollution monitoring. Using technology to help our planet, or for others to help our planet, is what I want to do with my small gifts for the rest of my life.

Going outdoors and seeing our natural beauty and wildlife always reminds me of why we do what we do at Ecology and the other natural resource agencies. When my son graduated from Oregon State University, we went to the ocean and were treated to a pod of whales off our Airbnb house deck. It was a reminder of the beauty of wildlife and importance of our oceans.

Puget Sound beach in background with Latinx and Hispanic Heritage logo. Photo of Sonia Fernandez in foreground.
Sonia Fernández

Everyone that has met me knows that I am from Puerto Rico. I tell everyone who wants to listen. Plus, my accent is also a dead giveaway. 

Born and raised in the little and crowded Caribbean island of 100 by 35 miles with about 3.5 million people, I grew up in a small town in the southeast corner of the island called Humacao. Some of my ancestors came to Puerto Rico from Spain via Cuba in the mid-1800s to work in the sugar cane trade. They married criollos(as) and settled in Cidra and San Juan until my parents established themselves in Humacao. I am the last one (querubina) of five kids and was a proud product of the public school system.  

Puerto Ricans are a happy bunch! We are boisterous, loud, passionate, and fiesteros (that is, party animals!), but are also humble, kind-hearted, loyal, and hard-working. We have a saying that we come in all colors of milk and coffee. That is because we are all a mix of the native Taíno that lived in the island pre-colonization, Spanish colonizers, and the African slaves they brought in to exploit the gold deposits. 

Discovered in 1493, we have over 500 years of history and like everywhere else, some of it is good, some of it is very painful. However, all of that history is what has made us the way we are and built our character as Puerto Ricans. If you can take anything from who we are as a people, it is that we are very proud of being Boricua

Coordinating voluntary cleanup work for contaminated sites

I started my position at Ecology in 2011 after 18 years working in the private sector as an environmental consultant. I have to say I have never looked back. Having worked with Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency as a consultant, I always knew that I wanted to serve the public and make a difference, so here I am!  

Sonia Fernández walks off a ship with Ecology employees.

Sonia leaves a boat used for a site tour along the Lower Duwamish River. She is with co-workers from the Toxics Cleanup Program. 

As the Voluntary Cleanup Program coordinator, each day is an adventure. Our program helps property owners independently clean up contaminated sites around the state. 

I assist our cleanup consultants, directly help the public with their questions and concerns, and assist them in navigating the Voluntary Cleanup Program application process. 

Some of my work includes reviewing our database information so it is accurate. I ensure the public can access the information we receive from program participants. I also serve as the link between the applicants, consultants, the public, and our cleanup site managers.  

Translating is meaningful and vital work

In addition to my work in our Toxics Cleanup Program, I am a translator and technical lead for our agency's Spanish translation team.

It is not only necessary to share the vital work we do with underserved communities, but it is the right thing to do.

I remember the feeling I got years ago when in the field. I was interpreting for Ecology and EPA personnel to Mexican workers that lived in the area with contaminants in their groundwater. I remember their faces when they finally understood why they and their kids were getting sick. My heart sank; it made it clear to me how important our translation work is.

Helping my coworkers and the public is what gets me excited about my work. I answer many questions from the public and connect people with one another. Every now and then, I get an email from a person who is very thankful for the help I provide. Those are the instances that make my day!