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SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando welcomes millions of guests from around the world inspiring them through the power of entertainment to celebrate, connect with and care for the natural world we all share.  As one of the destination’s leading tourism attractions,   SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando, comprised of SeaWorld®, Discovery Cove® and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark™, is proud to be a trustee of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and is dedicated to supporting the Hispanic community through its park experiences, diverse employees and on-going community outreach.

Recognizing the importance of the Hispanic community, SeaWorld Orlando is the only theme park in the area to celebrate the Latin culture with an annual festival and concert series, Viva la Música. Now in its 15th  year, Viva la Música embraces the food, fun and sights of the culture. Orlando’s can’t miss Latin food and concert festival is taking place this year Saturdays April 26 through May 17 and is included with park admission.

Many people may not know that Viva la Música’s delicious menu is created by SeaWorld Orlando’s very own Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Operations Héctor Colón. Native to Puerto Rico, Chef Héctor’s passion for his culture is undeniably represented through the event’s amazing food.  Viva la Música is  close to his heart since he’s able to add his own flair to the traditional Latin favorites he grew up enjoying such as arroz con gandules, arroz con pollo, habichuelas rojas y maduros, churrasco, ceviche, alcapurrias and bacalaítos.

20110308_Hector Colon Viva_6Chef Héctor is the executive chef and director of culinary operations for SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove and Aquatica and oversees all aspects of kitchen operation and menu development for all three Orlando parks year around. Hector has been with SeaWorld Orlando for nearly four years now but has over 25 years of culinary experience in all.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Viva la Música is a way for guests to come together and celebrate the Latin culture and also experience everything else that SeaWorld Orlando has to offer while hearing incredible stories of animal rescue and rehabilitation.  A 23-year veteran of SeaWorld Orlando and Puerto Rico native, Pedro Ramos-Navarrete, animal care supervisor, is a member of SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue Team and has been a part of hundreds of manatee and dolphin rescues and returns.  The Animal Rescue Team is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and has aided in saving more than 23,000 orphaned, abandoned, ill or injured animals, including dolphins and whales.

Pedro has dedicated his life to the care for animals and has worked with all marine mammal species at the park including dolphins, polar bears, beluga whales, and walruses.  He shares his knowledge of animals not only with park guests but also appears frequently on Univision’s national morning program Despierta America with animal ambassadors.  He educates the program’s millions of Latino viewers about a wide variety of animals and enlightens them about how conservation starts at home.

Pedro also works closely with Mari Mendez, communications associate manager, who is behind the scenes managing the company’s local Hispanic and Latin American communication efforts.  In her role, she manages the relationships with the local Hispanic and Latin American media to ensure they receive the latest park news to share within their community.   She also serves as the marketing project manager for Ihu’s Breakaway Falls – the tallest, steepest and only multi-drop tower slide of its kind in Orlando and the entire southern United States opening at Aquatica Orlando May 9.

Although Mari was born in Orlando, her mother is Cuban and her father is Venezuelan.  Quite the mix!  She grew up surrounded by the Latin culture and enjoys that her role affords her the opportunity to work closely with the Hispanic community.   She joined the SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando team as a communications intern while attending the University of Central of Florida in 2006 and grew into her current position as associate manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations.   Mari also represents SeaWorld as a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando.

SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando is honored to welcome millions of guests a year from around the world, many traveling from Latin American countries.  Lisha Duarte, corporate senior director, and Gabriel Martinez, senior manager for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s International Sales and Marketing are a key part in bringing tourism into Orlando.

Lisha Duarte leads the company’s efforts in travel industry sales and marketing, providing leadership to the global team, including teams in Latin America and Brazil.  She joined the SeaWorld family 28 years ago in 1985, where she began her career in Miami, Fla. as a Field Sales Representative for SeaWorld Orlando. Shortly after, her sales territory expanded to include Latin America and the Caribbean, where she was responsible for implementing all sales and marketing initiatives within the region. In 2000, Lisha relocated to SeaWorld’s global offices in Orlando, Fla., to assume a greater role growing international visitation for all SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment parks. Since then, she oversees the SEA marketing teams in the UK, Continental Europe, Latin America, China and Canada markets.

She is an active member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, Visit Orlando Global Committee, the USTA Pow Wow Planning Committee, and is active in other travel industry trade associations. Lisha is native to Puerto Rico and speaks three languages fluently:  English, Spanish and Portuguese.

GabrielEMartinezGabriel Martinez works directly with Lisha and is part of her team representing 11 parks under SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, including the three Orlando parks.   Since joining the SeaWorld team in 2012, his primary objective is to increase global tourism into the destination with a large concentration on tourism from Latin America.  He manages more than 50 receptive accounts based on the East Coast.

In addition to being a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, he also represents SeaWorld before trade organizations, such as the Receptive Services Association of America, where he serves as an Advisory Board Member to the Board of Directors.   Gabriel is originally from Venezuela and came to the United States to attend school.  Gabriel holds a bachelor’s degree in entertainment business from Full Sail University and a master’s degree in business administration from Rollins College, both located in Winter Park, Florida.

SeaWorld’s diverse Team Members represent the uniqueness of the Latin culture and epitomize what it stands for. Héctor Colón, Pedro Ramos-Navarrete, Mari Mendez, Lisha Duarte and Gabriel Martinez all call Orlando home and exemplify the core values behind SeaWorld and its diversity initiatives, and go above and beyond daily to provide exceptional service to all guests who come through the front gates.

SeaWorld Parks & Resort Orlando looks forward to continuing to make waves within the Hispanic Community. To learn more about its parks and experiences, visit SeaWorldOrlando.

Mari Mendez

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