Hispanic Heritage Month
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear “Hispanic Heritage Month” is my family. I think about where we come from and how far we’ve made it. Through my heritage, I’ve learned to work hard and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. But having a different heritage as others has not always been easy.
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, but my parents moved to Mexico when I was still a baby. Being a toddler in Mexico, I learned Spanish as my first language. Then, right before I started elementary school, my parents moved our family to Texas where my dad ran his own car repair and small dealership business.
When I started elementary school, it was a challenge for various reasons. First off, there was a language barrier. I didn’t understand the teachers or other kids and they couldn’t understand me. As a result, I was seen as different and was bullied for it. The challenges I faced with learning a new language and culture, as well as dealing with the other kids, made me embarrassed to be Hispanic and forced me to quickly adjust to my new environment.
Unfortunately, that embarrassment took over, and eventually I stopped speaking Spanish in public. In private, my heritage was still my heritage, and the time I spent visiting my grandparents in Mexico helped me stay in touch with my Spanish language.
It wasn’t until after graduating college that I realized my background was an important asset. I was in an interview for a bank located in a predominately Spanish speaking area. In fact, this bank specialized in working with the Hispanic community. With mostly everyone in the community having Spanish as their first language, the hiring manager asked me off-the-bat if I spoke Spanish. I obviously said “¡Claro que sí!” (“Yes, off course!”). And for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t afraid to be myself.
Many of the bank customers had multiple jobs or small businesses, and growing up around my dad’s profession, it was something I could relate to. I understood the challenges small business owners faced financially and could appreciate the hard work it took to be your own employee. And because of this connection through my background and my heritage, I was able to succeed in my role. I was able to relate to the families in the community who were going through the same challenges my family went through growing up.
The ability to help people with their financial obstacles eventually led me to seek a career in the retirement plan industry, where I now focus on serving the Hispanic workforce as a multicultural education specialist. I’ve learned to embrace my background and my unique difference. I am now confident in who I am while being true to where I come from. I attribute my success in my personal and professional life from the experiences I’ve had because of my heritage. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
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