Mr. Speaker, this evening, I am very pleased to speak to Bill S-218, which seeks to designate October as Latin American heritage month.
Thanks to my two daughters, Mélinda and Marie-Catherine, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about Latin American culture. When they were teenagers, my daughters became very close friends with the wonderful Cornejo and De Leon Velasquez families from El Salvador and the equally wonderful Neto family from Mexico. I was therefore able to discover this unique culture and often share delicious meals with these families. I remember Ms. De Leon Velasquez's delicious pupusas and tamales and the Neto family's amazing guacamole. What can I say about Latin American culture? Its music brings back memories of girls nights with my daughters and friends. The music of Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Luis Fonsi, and Shakira, among others, made us dance, sing, and most importantly helped us discover the beauty of Latin American heritage.
Latin Americans brought colour and flavour into our lives. They shared with us their way of life and taught us to be more open to a people who may have had difficulty integrating into our society when they first arrived in Quebec or Canada. They are now quite well integrated and are sharing their culture, music, and food with us.
By designating a Latin American heritage month, we will be opening ourselves to the world. We will be opening ourselves up to new cultures and a new vision of who we are as Quebeckers, Canadians, and in my case, as a French Canadian woman.
Unfortunately, I have not learned the language. I only know two words in Spanish, hola and qué tal. My daughters and my grandson speak Spanish. My seven-year-old grandson has friends from Mexico. I think it is great that at age seven he is learning French, English, and Spanish, and that he is discovering Latin American culture. I think it is great that this bill highlights the importance of Latin American heritage.
What can we say about these Latin Americans who come here to lend a hand? In 2015, 9,000 Mexican and Guatemalan agricultural workers arrived in Quebec to help us in the fields. In my riding alone, there are many Guatemalans and Mexicans, especially in Île d'Orléans for the strawberry harvest. In the winter, more and more Mexicans come to Quebec to enjoy everything that our winters have to offer. We can learn a lot about ourselves from Mexican or Latino culture. Through their eyes and their friendship I realize how fortunate I am to spend time with them. They helped open my eyes to the world. They explained their culture and religion to me; how different they are from mine. Thanks to my daughters, they helped me discover the splendour of the Latin American community. That was in my old riding. In my new riding, I have a larger number of agricultural workers.
When I was the MP for Beauport—Limoilou, there was a very active community in Saint-Pie-X. There were always Guatemalans, Mexicans, and Salvadorans at Parc Bardy. All those wonderful people formed a community together with francophones from Ivory Coast and people from Senegal. My riding was multicultural. Multiculturalism is a great way to engage with the world. When my girls were teenagers and we went over to the Cornejos' or the De Leon Velasquezes' place, we got used to watching telenovelas. I told them I thought the shows were cheesy, but really, they were no cheesier than American tabloids.
The Latin American community is very tight-knit and family-oriented. Quebeckers are pretty family-oriented too, but we are more self-absorbed, and that is a shame. Latin American families offer a different perspective.
My girls are 29 and 30 now, and they still have the same friends. I knew Neto when he was 13 or 14, and now he is a young man with two daughters of his own. I think that is wonderful; they are just so beautiful. From my grandson's perspective, they are a kind of bridge between what we are and what they are. That community's culture is very important to me.
Usually, it is parents who raise children, but I am grateful to my girls for teaching me to be open to the rest of the world. When we take an interest in another culture and try to understand where people are coming from to see where they are going, when we understand that despite their differences other people can complement us, that changes everything.
This kind of bill may seem unimportant to some people, but it is very important to me because it underscores something very special: we are open to all communities. Today, our focus is on the Latin American community.
Today I would like to send greetings to Neto and the Cornejo and De Leon Velasquez families. I thank them for introducing me to their magnificent culture.