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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Tuesday marked the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, a chance to celebrate the Latino community. There is a lot to celebrate, from the culture and sense of family to the pursuit of the American dream.

"The language would be the first thing. Esta es una casa de espanol, hablamos espanol aqui," said Diana Lopez a native from Honduras, pointing to her parents, reminding her that at home "they had to speak Spanish.


BUILDING A BETTER BAY AREA: Race and Social Justice

Belinda Hernandez Arriaga, assistant professor at University of San Francisco, believes an inclusive sense of unity is what makes the Latino community strong.

"The sense of family that we have extended family, we have madrinas, comadres and we have a social network that is strong and brings us together also collectively as a community," said Hernandez Arriaga.

According to the latest census data, there are 60 million Hispanics in the U.S., making Hispanics the largest minority in the U.S.

"More than ever, we see how Latinos are the backbone and economic engine of our country... we see how they are the front line of essential workers and farm workers and the joy they bring to this country with alegria and food," said Hernandez Arriaga.

We asked 11-year-old Alondra Gomez, "What does it mean to you to be a Latina?"

"To me, it means something special because my parents are from Mexico and I feel lucky."

RELATED: No Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations as focus turns to helping Latinos impacted by COVID-19

Many Latinos, like Peruvian Sebastian Sánchez, remember the exact day they moved to the Unites States. "Almost 29 years, March 30," but are sure to keep their traditions and roots present every day.

Philip Collins is from Mexico. He says his "job is now done." He raised his daughter, speaks Spanish and holds the Mexican traditions close.

"I have a daughter. She is married now and she has three children, so she is passing it on to her children," said Collins.

Dinora Ferman is from El Salvador. She worked multiple jobs so her daughter could graduate college. "I came here when I was 23 years old and I told her that she needed to do everything I didn't finish in my life... she needed to finish it."

For many Latinos, owning a business or buying a house is a vital part of the American dream. At Antojitos Patry in the Mission, the Rocha family sells imported products from Central America to keep that tradition alive.

"When we first saw it I said alright mom like you did a good job as you can see its big. It's her first store and I'm proud of her," said Victor Escorcia.

We are seeing how the second and third generation of Hispanics are raising up to fight for their parents dreams. The U.S. census projects that by the year 2026, there could be over 100 million Hispanics in this country.

"Latinos are waiting to be heard and we are right at the door saying "aqui estamos. People are stopping and saying, 'What is the next generation going to push us to, who are the next generation push us to. Who are the voices who will amplify who we are as Latinos in this country,'" said Hernandez Arriaga.

Hispanic Heritage Week was first proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. It was later extended into a 30-day celebration and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on August 17, 1988. The celebration takes placed from September 15 - October 15.

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COVID survivor released from hospital after he and 9 others contracted virus at backyard BBQ in Fontana

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. (KABC) -- It was a cheerful farewell that nearly didn't happen.

Randy Smith of Apple Valley was one of 10 family members who contracted the novel coronavirus at a backyard barbecue in Fontana -- and was so close to death that his wife was told by doctors to say her goodbyes.

Now Smith is heading home after three months in the hospital.

"Thank God," he said. "It was life and death, and I made it out this side."

It's been a long road to get here. Smith had a litany of problems when he was diagnosed in June.

10 test positive for COVID-19 after attending family backyard BBQ in Fontana
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An Apple Valley man was hospitalized and near death after he and nine other family members tested positive for COVID-19 following a backyard barbecue.

"I had collapsed lungs, pneumonia," he recalled. "I had a stroke."

Dr. Nicole Hanrahan, medical director of Encompass Health Rehab hospital of Murrieta, added that Smith also developed "acute respiratory failure, required two chest tubes and the help of a tracheostomy for breathing."

He had to relearn how to walk, talk and eat.

When things were at their worst, the family believes that prayer saved his life.

RELATED: Sickest COVID-19 patient at Children's Hospital Orange County leaves ICU after 57 days
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Doctors at CHOC Children's in Orange County say 14-year-old Agustina Rojas was the sickest COVID-19 patient they've ever had. The Placentia teen was near death twice, but she beat the virus and is now at home after spending 57 days in the ICU.

"God did a miracle and healed me overnight," Smith said.

Now, he and the rest of his family who survived, four of whom were hospitalized, are imploring others to not follow their path.

"Wearing a mask isn't a joke," said Riley McGuigan, one of 10 family members who contracted the coronavirus at the barbecue. "People say, 'I'm not gonna wear my mask, it's just OK I'm not gonna get COVD.' It's not a joke. You can die from this. "People are dying from it."

'Miracle man' says prayer helped him survive COVID-19 at age 75
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Family members credit their father's faith, nightly prayers and angels on Earth for saving his life from coronavirus.

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