US Lacrosse is happy to join in the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15-Oct. 15 and recognizes the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history and culture of the United States.

Across the country, Americans with Hispanic Heritage are picking up lacrosse sticks and falling in love with this game. For some, the connections made through lacrosse have brought them closer to their heritage, as more and more Hispanic countries adopt the game and participate in international competitions.

From youth players to those in the professional ranks, Hispanic Americans are a crucial part of the lacrosse community — and each person has a unique story to tell. In partnership with Lacrosse the Nations, we will highlight proud Hispanic Americans in the game of lacrosse and their family stories on our social media platforms.

We are grateful for you. We support you. You help make this sport special. Te estamos agradecidos. Te apoyamos. Ayudas a que este deporte sea especial.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Marcela (Mo) Gaitán 

Heritage: Colombian
Location: Pottstown, Pa.
Title: Head Coach and Associate Athletic Director, The Hill School; Member of the Colombian National Team
College: St. Cloud State (Minn.)

What is your heritage? 

I identify as Hispanic, Latina, and Colombian but for the purpose of this message and the state of our world, not all Colombians are Hispanics or Latinos. Race is diverse in Colombia just as it is in most countries. Neither of my cultural distinctions (Hispanic/Latina) are a specific race. Race is a social construct about your observed physical characteristics, not a biological distinction. According to the U.S. Census, I would be classified as “some other race.” That being said, Colombia Lacrosse has helped my better understand that I am not white, I am “some other race” and I am proud of who I am.

What does your heritage mean to you? 

Lacrosse is actually a prominent vehicle that has allowed my heritage to blossom. I am Colombian and I feel more strongly connected with being a Colombian because of my experiences with Colombia Lacrosse. I learned to play lacrosse in the states but the game has given me emotional and linguistic connectivity that I never would have had otherwise. My heritage is genetic, but heritage is really about what you feel. And I feel Colombian during large parts of my time involved with the sport of lacrosse including but not limited to representing Colombia at the 2015 U19 World Cup, 2017 World Cup and 2019 World Cup Qualifiers. 

What is your family’s immigration story? 

My mother, born and raised in the United States, traveled to Colombia after her post-secondary education. As an educator in the throes of Colombia during the 1980’s, my mother and father met, fell in love and came back to the states together. They started their life together and brought me into the world.   

What role has lacrosse played in your life? 

My lacrosse identity is forged in places where ironically, lacrosse doesn’t have a strong foothold (Minnesota and Colombia). It has allowed me to more intricately connect with the game in ways that would not be possible had I grown up in in more established lacrosse area. My heart emigrated to Colombia through the sport of lacrosse. Colombia Lacrosse has helped me understand who I am and where I come from.  

While lacrosse has been the consistent theme throughout my professional and personal path, at this point, it is so intertwined I don’t even differentiate, it is just who I am.

Jordan Chavez

Heritage: Peruvian
Location: Stamford, Conn.
High School: Stamford
Position: Close defense/LSM

What does your heritage mean to you?

My heritage means a lot to me, because it makes up who Iam as an individual.

What is your family's immigrant story?

My grandfather migrated to the U.S. along with my grandmother from Peru. He worked very hard and long nights, paving highways and roads, in order to provide for his family. My grandfather's hard work allowed my father to play several sports which created a drive for him to be extremely competitive in any sport he played. This drive was instilled in me and allows me to stay competitive when playing Lacrosse.

How were you introduced to lacrosse?

During my Sophomore year, [Coach Mike Nazzaro] gave me the opportunity to try the sport and helped coach me to a better understanding of the game

What role has lacrosse played in your life?

Lacrosse has allowed me to remain active and out of the streets. I've gained more exposure to colleges and most importantly experienced a brotherly bond between my teammates all while having Coach Nazz not just as my coach but as a mentor.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This is Daniela Eppler. #HispanicHeritageMonth "My heritage is an integral part of my identity. Not only did I grow up completely bilingual, speaking primarily Spanish at home, but my mother made sure to integrate our Mexican culture into our daily lives through meals, activities, and by taking us to visit our family in Mexico at least twice a year. My ability to speak Spanish fluently was one of the greatest gifts my mom could have given me as it allowed me to really immerse myself in my heritage and create the incredibly close ties with friends and family in Mexico that I have today. To me my heritage is associated with happiness, family, and of course, amazing cuisine and I could not be prouder to be Mexican." Daniela Eppler Heritage: Mexican Location: Washington, D.C. #linkinbio for her story.

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Daniela Eppler

Heritage: Mexican
Location: Washington, D.C.
College: Virginia
Title: Coach, Mexican National Team, Skywalkers Lacrosse Club

What does your heritage mean to you?

To me, my heritage is an integral part of my identity. Although I was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, my heritage was embedded into all aspects of my upbringing. Not only did I grow up completely bilingual, speaking primarily Spanish at home, but my mother made sure to integrate our Mexican culture into our daily lives through meals, activities, and by taking us to visit our family in Mexico at least twice a year. My ability to speak Spanish fluently was one of the greatest gifts my mom could have given me as it allowed me to really immerse myself in my heritage and create the incredibly close ties with friends and family in Mexico that I have today. My heritage has been such a large influence on my life that I primarily identify myself as being "Mexican" more so than I do being "American". This is not because I believe my Mexican heritage is better than my American heritage, but because of the huge role that my Mexican identity has played in my life since I was a baby.  To me my heritage is associated with happiness, family, and of course, amazing cuisine and I could not be prouder to be Mexican. 

What is your family's immigrant story? 

My family's immigrant story is quite unique. My great grandmother on my mother's side was Polish and immigrated to the United States where she met a man from the Yucatan area in Mexico. They got married and moved to Mexico to raise my grandmother and her two sisters. My grandmother married my grandfather, who was from Mexico, and they moved to Baltimore so he could complete his medical residency at Johns Hopkins, and then they moved back to Mexico. Being familiar with Baltimore, my uncle and my mother both moved to Baltimore to pursue careers in the sciences as well. My uncle did his residency at Union Memorial Hospital and my mother completed her PhD at Johns Hopkins. My mom met my dad, who was my uncle's boss, and stayed in Baltimore ever since.

What role has lacrosse played in your life?

I could not imagine my life without lacrosse. It has provided me with incredible opportunities to make lifelong friends in teammates, opponents, and coaches all over the world. It had also provided me with incredible opportunities to travel, to live abroad, and to grow as a person. Most importantly, lacrosse has provided me with the opportunity to not only represent a country that I love, but to give back to community that has given me so much throughout my life. Having the opportunity to grow the game in Mexico, to represent Mexico on an international stage, and to use the game to create opportunities for young players, is one of the greatest gifts this game has given me.

Romar Dennis

Heritage: Panamanian, El Salvadorian
Location: Santa Monica, Calif.
Team: Atlas LC

What does your heritage mean to you?

My Latino heritage means everything to me. It means that we work hard and nothing is beneath us, we respect and stay close to our family, and we preserve our culture. It also has shown me that we don't have to look alike to be a part of the same family or community.  A lot of my mom's side of the family is here in the U.S. and we are all very close. Every birthday, wedding, graduation, las creencias religiosas, la Navidad, Thanksgiving celebration has always been a reminder of what our culture is. La cultura latina no solo es la comida y la fiesta, si no todo el patrimonio y la herencia que traemos a este país.

What is your family's immigrant story?

My mom (Marleny Dennis) fled El Salvador in the early 1980s during the Salvadoran Civil War and came in search of better opportunity. My dad (Roberto Dennis Sr.) was scouted by the New York Yankees to play in the U.S. He played four years in the Yankees farm system. They met in Washington D.C. 

How were you introduced to lacrosse?

I only started playing lacrosse because my older brother Junior started playing and I wanted to do whatever he did. Baseball is huge in Latin America so my father was rightfully disappointed when I wanted to stop playing. No one in my family had ever heard of lacrosse but they still showed extreme support regardless. Lacrosse is a mainstream sport in Maryland so there were plenty of games for my parents to take me to. I specifically remember my mom getting some kind of "Lacrosse 101" book when I started playing in elementary school.

What role has lacrosse played in your life?

Lacrosse has opened doors and provided me with opportunities that I would not have gotten without it. The sport has something to do with every place I've lived and every job I've had.

Bianca Rojas

Heritage: Mexican
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Title: Head Coach, Point University

What does your heritage mean to you?

If I’m being completely honest, my heritage was something I internally struggled with when I was younger, and even now with everything going on in the US, it can still be hard. But as I’ve gotten older, I am really proud to say I am Mexican. I look at the life I have and the opportunities I’ve been given to be successful and I owe it all to my grandpa and my parents. It makes me very proud to know that my grandparents and parents endured hardships and struggled to give my siblings, myself and cousins the opportunity to be successful. It means that we can be faced with any challenges and still overcome them. We are resilient.

What is your family's immigrant story?

My grandpa, Juan Valdez came to work in the U.S. at 17 years old in 1940. He came with a distant cousin in hopes of finding work to make enough money to support himself. He would leave Mexico and would work in Texas to make money and then go back to Mexico. In 1955 he became a Legal Permanent Resident and did not leave the US. He worked at Holsum Bread Company from 1955-1972. He then was a migrant farm worker and later became self employed as a Migrant Crew Leader. 

What role has lacrosse played in your life?

I truly believe lacrosse turned me into the woman I am today. I was able to meet so many amazing teammates and coaches because of lacrosse. All of these people have played an important role in shaping the woman I am today. Lacrosse has also given me the opportunity to travel to different states and different parts of the world. Now that I am coaching, I believe it has given me a platform to help influence other young girls. As a coach, you may be the only positive role model for players. I am very lucky to have grown up in an amazing family but that’s not the case for a lot of people. I tell my girls “I might be tough on you, but I love you a lot more.

Cassandra Kitchen

Heritage: Peruvian
Location: Owings Mills, Md.
Team: Skywalkers 2024 Blue

What does your heritage mean to you?

Heritage to me means who I am, it represents a big portion of me. It's a tremendous gift being able to speak Spanish fluently allowing me to communicate and create tighter bonds with relatives, friends, and others. I am very grateful to be bilingual, Spanish from my mother's side, and English from my father's. I live with a unique blend of two different cultures that exist side-by-side practicing both traditions. 

What is your family's immigrant story?

My mother emigrated from Peru to the United States in 1989. She came to the US trying to "escape" the dangers posed by the Shining Path terrorist organization. She wanted to start a new life for a better future. She took the chance to come and create an opportunity for my brothers and I to have a better life. In doing so, we were introduced to lacrosse which began my journey to love the game.  

How were you introduced to lacrosse?

I was fortunate to have a brother who played for the Peruvian National Lacrosse team in 2018 at the FIL where he immensely enjoyed his experience. I strive to play high-level collegiate lacrosse and possibly for the US Women's National Lacrosse team. Additionally, I would be honored and proud to play for a Peruvian Women's Lacrosse team or help introduce Peruvian girls to the sport I have grown to love.

What role has lacrosse played in your life?

Lacrosse has opened up so many opportunities and paths that I will always cherish and can't wait to experience. I've met incredibly talented players and developed friendships with the wonderful team I have been playing on for the past 5 years. I would like to include that I've always wanted to go to less fortunate areas or countries to spread the love of the game that I have been privileged to enjoy.

We're proud to collaborate with Lacrosse the Nations to share stories during Hispanic Heritage Month. Lacrosse the nations (ltn) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission of unifying the lacrosse community to improve education and health while creating opportunity and hope for children around the world. They primarily serve Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama and the United States.