Hispanic Heritage Month “pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society” by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
We asked some of our colleagues for their thoughts on being LatinX in America, their advice for Latinos in the workplace and what they’re celebrating. Between them, they had a lot of different opinions but two things stood out consistently: the Hispanic community is a diverse one and … food is really important!
Our panel included:
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Luis: A community can’t be respected if it’s not understood so this is an opportunity for our community to teach others about our heritage.
Emilio: It’s about celebrating the accomplishments of so many Hispanic people who came before us, recognizing what they’ve done to pave the way for us in the modern day. People like my parents, who moved here with my brothers before I was born, and who have sacrificed and accomplished so much by moving here.
Dayana: This is a time to recognize that the Latin Community is a strong collaborator when it comes to both the economy and culture of this country. This recognition helps us to feel included and like we’re working together.
On diversity within the Hispanic community
Alexis: There are so many dimensions of diversity, even within cultural groups and this is the time to shine a light on this. Indigenous backgrounds can be similar across Latin America, but different European colonists influenced each country’s evolution, and we can see that today such as in Peru’s Japanese influence or Guatemala’s Korean influence.
Luis: We’re an incredibly diverse community and it’s important for others to know this and to understand the difference between the cultures and countries we come from. For example, I was born in Brazil where Portuguese and not Spanish is spoken, sometimes I’m not even classified as a Latino.
Tell us about the food….
Alexis: there are huge differences in food and what you get in the US is often not authentic - Chimichanga and Fajitas aren’t really Mexican for example. If you want authentic Salvadorean food, I recommend a pupusa – a thick homemade corn tortilla stuffed with fillings like pork or cheese. Or both. Ricisimo (yummy)!
Luis: Our Thanksgiving table always includes traditional American foods – turkey, mashed potato and so on. But there’s always some Latino influence such as side dishes of beans and rice. It’s so important to celebrate and maintain our culture, rather than seeing it subsumed.
What advice would you give LatinX employees?
Alexis: Be open to possibilities that were never shared with you. It's OK to be your own advocate. Your voice matters and your leadership has impact.
Luis: I hate the phrase, “fake it till you make it”. Don’t do that. Be yourself. Be authentic. We are underrepresented as a community in the US so our opinions as Latinos matter even more, and individually we can have a greater impact on an organization.
Emilio: Our work ethic and desire for self-improvement is well recognized. Bring those positive attributes to the workplace for long term success.
Dayana: You have a role to play in mitigating any stigmas attached to our community. Remember that you represent your culture. Good, pleasant and helpful interactions with you will have a positive impact for other Latinos in the workplace, today and in the future.
Cultural traits in the workplace?
Alexis: as Latinos, our heritage teaches us to respect authority and to be humble. We can be those things while also advancing your career in ways that may be new to our parents and community.
Emilio: Hispanic people are well known for passion and being hard working but also humble. We should leverage these characteristics in the workplace. Part of my job is to be passionate about Analytic Partners and share that passion with others but still be humble – we’ve seen huge growth and success but we’re humble because we still have so many objectives to reach.
What Latino/Latina have been inspirations for you and why?
Alexis: Frida Kahlo! She used her art to make her voice heard and to celebrate her culture, while also challenging stigmas. She endured so much but channelled all of that into a physical representation that became her legacy, and she challenged societal norms for progress.
Emilio: Rafael Nadal! I love how competitive he is, his fire and passion to perform at the highest level and his total dedication. He represents all the best parts of Latino culture. I also love how he conducts himself both on and off the court – he’s humble, constantly wants to improve and he’s always looking to grow.
Dayana: Carlos Cruz-Diez. He was a Venezuelan artist who came from a poor family, often giving paintings away for basic foodstuffs in the early days. He’s inspiring because he came from a poor background but was dedicated and persistent and never stopped being humble. He reminds me that it’s important to keep your roots and core values, regardless of fame and popularity.
Luis: My wife and my brother. My wife is a Nicaraguan immigrant who worked throughout her undergraduate degree then went to law school and is now a health and insurance law expert. I admire her work ethic and commitment (and she’s a wonderful wife and mother!). My brother went to Harvard and worked at top-tier investment banks before creating a wildly successful data analytics company. The work and effort and sacrifices required to get there have been immense and I absolutely respect him for that.
Fun facts about our culture or important tradition?
Emilio: Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of those who have passed away. It’s not about mourning but about celebrating them, our history and our accomplishments.
Alexis: I always celebrate Dia de los Muertos with an annual “Ofrenda or Altar” with photos of loved ones who have passed on. I decorate it with candles, papel picado (colored tissue paper with designs cut into it) and offerings. It’s out for a full month and is our way of remembering, honoring and sharing stories of those who came before. We want to keep their memories alive, particularly for the next generation.
Dayana: In Venezuala, like for other Hispanic cultures, the music is so important. I grew up listening to Latin music, my mom grew up listening to Latin music and there are just these endless memories of this music and atmosphere. Any Latin party always includes lots of music and lots of food, which unites us. And don’t forget the dancing!