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Hispanic Heritage Month: Family and pozole

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Cynthia Munoz, 21st Communication Squadron knowledge management, was born in Dallas, but raised in Rioverde, Mexico with her mother and sister. She moved to the United States at the age of 16, finished high school and college and then joined the Air Force for even more career opportunities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Cynthia Munoz, 21st Communication Squadron knowledge management, was born in Dallas, but raised in Rioverde, Mexico with her mother and sister. She moved to the United States at the age of 16, finished high school and college and then joined the Air Force for even more career opportunities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- "Whenever I go through something challenging, or if I'm having trouble with something, I think of my family."

Airman 1st Class Cynthia Munoz, 21st Communication Squadron knowledge management, was born in Dallas, but grew up in Rioverde, Mexico. It was there she learned the hard work it takes to reach goals and the importance of keeping family close by, both of which translate well into her life in the Air Force.

Living with just her mother and sister, Munoz said life was a challenge growing up. She started working when she was 10 years old and watched her mother labor alongside the men to earn a little more money for the family.

In addition to holding a full-time job in high school, Munoz was thirsty for knowledge and always studying. Even though she was near the top of her class in Mexico, something was missing.

"I always felt that my dreams and goals and hopes were always here in the U.S.," she said. "I was just waiting until I was old enough to convince my mom to let me move out here when I was 16."

Munoz said she was very confident coming to a new country because she learns quickly. It wasn't until after she moved to the U.S that she realized it would be more of a challenge than she anticipated.

For her, the language barrier was the toughest part of adapting. At her new school in the U.S., she first had to learn English in order to translate the lessons they were learning. As her English got better, Munoz realized she already learned the content in Mexico and just needed to translate it to understand it.

"That just pushed me more," Munoz said. "I know many people who changed their surroundings to Spanish to make life easier. I did the opposite. I changed everything to English and to make me adapt to my surroundings."

After working hard, Munoz graduated high school early and went off to community college to continue her education. It was there she saw a commercial for the Air Force. Immediately she knew that was something she wanted to do.

She was finishing her college degree, planning her wedding, studying for finals and worrying about her mother, who developed a tumor on her hip. None of the stress stopped her from pursuing her dreams - it motivated her even more.  She accepted a new challenge and joined the Air Force.

Munoz was the first of her family to join the military and it was that family who helped her get through basic training.  Whenever she would go through something challenging, she said she would think of her family to make it through.

New to her family, her husband was also from Mexico and shares the same heritage.
To celebrate their Mexican heritage, Munoz said they like to cook traditional Mexican food any chance they get. The refrigerator is always full of tortillas and spicy foods.

Their favorite is pozole, which is a soup or stew made with maize and some type of meat - Munoz likes to use chicken. She said any chance to make a big meal with traditional food is fun.

The Independence of Mexico is one of those holidays where an endless amount of food can be expected. Her family always has a huge meal and usually dresses up in traditional Mexican garments. It's a time to celebrate and be proud of where her family comes from.

Munoz said she tries to teach her children the same thing she's so proud of. Their heritage is something to hold dear, whether it is the close-knit families or the constant dedication to working hard.

"I work hard for my family and for myself," she said. "I learned you have to work hard for what you want. Nothing comes free in life."

(The is part two of a four part series highlighting Hispanic Airmen for Hispanic Heritage Month)

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