Continental celebrates Latin connections

Continental Airlines and the National Hispanic Press Foundation have announced the winner of the “Destino: Latinoamerica” essay contest for Hispanic high school students. Maria Murillo, 17, who will be a senior this fall at Loara High School in Buena Park, Calif., won with her essay called “La Risa/Laughter.”

“We (Latin Americans) are people who take pride in our past and in (our) customs. We are not ashamed of the music, religion, cuisine, art and dance that make up our way of life,” Murillo wrote in her essay. “We are constantly celebrating so that the memories of our past will not be forgotten by future generations.”

The contest required participants to write about Latin America’s influence on life in the U.S. Murillo won six Continental Airlines tickets for herself and her parents to make college visits anywhere in the United States where Continental flies.

“I was very excited when I found out I won,” Murillo said. “My friends agreed with me that the Latin laugh is so loud and contagious. I thought I could do a good job of reflecting Latin American culture and its influence in the U.S.”

“Latin America is very important to Continental Airlines and we’re pleased to partner with the NHPF to showcase the work of this young woman who has captured so well the spirit of Latin American culture,” said Maria Cristina Osorio, Manager, Public Relations, Latin America and U.S. Hispanic, Continental Airlines. “‘La Risa’ is refreshing and demonstrates great originality, while still staying true to the theme of Latin American contributions to U.S. life.”


A native of Orange County, California, Murillo hopes to attend New York University, USC or UC-Berkeley and plans to major in journalism. She is a member of the International Baccalaureates Club and the Tea Club, a community service club, and was editor of her school’s journalism program during her junior year. She is the daughter of Jose and Maria Murillo, both natives of Mexico.

“We were impressed with the level of pride in their Latin American roots that all the students demonstrated in their essays,” said Tom Oliver, Executive Director, NHPF. “Maria did a particularly nice job of expressing the passion of Latin American traditions.”

Judges from Continental and the NHPF evaluated the essays for clarity of expression and originality. Murillo’s essay will be posted on two NHPF-related Web sites, and, as well as published in 10 National Association of Hispanic Publications member newspapers around the country.