Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with Reflection
How we’re honoring Latinx Heritage Month
Each year on September 15, we dedicate time to celebrate the rich and dynamic histories and contributions of those whose ancestors come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. We celebrate this month as Latinx Heritage Month, as we strive to recognize everyone with Hispanic heritage and/or Latin American origin or ancestry. We do this because we want to create an inclusive culture that welcomes and truly celebrates all members of each of these communities and the special similarities and differences they hold.
This year, our Latinx employee resource group is embracing the theme “Reflect, Reset, and Renew” and throughout the month will be sharing stories of their families - stories of sacrifices, connections and memories. Here are some of the stories employees have chosen to share.
I am a Fortunate Son
I’m a bit of an anomaly, especially in the 70’s: an only child in a Mexican family (to a single mom).
The story goes that my mother put her own life on hold in order to seek opportunities for a better life for herself, her mother and siblings by moving to the US from a small village in Durango, a state in north central Mexico. My mother’s name is Martha, but her birth name was Fortunata. She is a woman with no real great desire for flash or pizzazz or image; she disliked her name so much, she legally changed it.
My mom became a pioneer for her immediate and extended family, leading the way for many to better their lives. My mom passed away several years ago and I miss her greatly. After all, I’m an admitted mama’s boy.
But, I’ll always be a Fortunate Son.
“Preguntando se llega Roma”
I am first generation Peruvian and if it wasn’t for the bravery of my great grandmother (Mamma), my whole family wouldn’t have the privileges we have today.
She came to this country alone with not much money, but was able to find a job doing in-home care in San Francisco. The elderly person she was caring for had an unoccupied flat and Mamma asked her if she could live in that unit. From there, she now had space to bring over the rest of the family little by little. First my mom, Romy, then my aunt and uncle and then my great grandmother’s best friend’s son, Kike.
Mamma was the head of the household - she helped and guided everyone to school or work. She paved the way for a better future and taught me to be independent. Her favorite saying was “Preguntando se llega Roma” which really taught me that anything is possible. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I’m so grateful to have had such strong women to look up to.
Looking for new experiences, finding new friends
I was born in Bogotá, Colombia and raised in South Florida. Six years ago, my wife and I drove from Miami all the way to San Francisco. We left our friends and family behind, looking for new experiences and chasing job opportunities. We not only found that, but met the most wonderful group of people who we now consider lifetime friends. We also experienced a couple of hills and valleys that shaped our characters and helped us grow closer as a family.
Fast forward to today now as a family of three, we have decided to move back to South Florida, work remotely and be closer to family and childhood friends. We also bought our first house and could not be more excited for this new chapter in our lives.
Do the scary thing, it is worth it
I was born and raised in Chile. I studied business and then got a Master’s degree in Innovation and Design. I worked in an innovation consultancy for over four years, but I was looking for something more. I decided to move to the US a little over two years ago. I did not know anybody here - others thought I was taking too much of a risk to move alone to a new country with no support system. I mean, they were not wrong. It was scary and intense, but it also felt right.
I started my program and began building a community here, and they are the ones that helped me to stay here. It’s been two years and I feel way more settled and blessed for the situation that I’m in. I’m a latina woman in a position where I can help other immigrants like me to overcome and follow their gut, even when everybody thinks that you are crazy for pursuing your dreams.
I’m second generation - my grandparents made the leap of faith. My grandmother is from the Campo outside of San Miguel, Argentina, one of nine sisters. At 16 years old she moved to the big city of Buenos Aires to work as a nanny. By 19 she was on her way to LA with that family in search of a more prosperous future. There at UCLA she met my grandpa who’s from India, thinking he was Mexican and she flirted with him in Spanish and connected with him.They married and raised three children and ultimately settled in Spokane, WA.
My childhood was not dissimilar to that of the show Modern Family, in a household where both Butter Chicken and Milanesa were often on the menu. My mom was the Rodeo Queen of Washington State.
Wanting to truly learn Spanish, create stronger ties with my Argentine family and search for adventure, five years ago I moved to Argentina, where I earned my MBA from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, and met my now long-term girlfriend. I moved back up to Seattle in January to start working at DocuSign!
A medley of love
After 27 years of questioning my existence and the make up of who I am, I’ve never been more excited and proud to be my authentic self. In 1928, in Nochistlan Zacatecas, Mexico, my great grandfather and great grandmother, Trinidad and Mercedes Avelar took the leap of faith with their two eldest children and migrated to California. During their immigration, translation was lost and the Abelars were now residents of South San Francisco.
Fast forward to 1994, I was born to a grandson of Trinidad and Mercedes. Given my McDevitt name at birth, as a thankful Mc, I always knew there was more to me; a different passion, loyalty, respect to the land and lineage in my blood. I began to explore my ancestors’ past and just this month, in August 2021, I met my family! It was everything my heart could have asked for. For the first time in my life I found my fabric, it’s vibrant, warm and large.
In loving memory of mi abuelita
I was always close to mi abuelita, I was considered her favorite. While my brothers would go outside and play, sometimes I’d stay inside with her. At some point I realized she would forget things or get disoriented and forget where she was. She was diagnosed with Dementia in 2010. It was difficult for my family to wrap their heads around this disease but my first instinct was to spend more time with her and ask her about her story before it's all gone.
One of my fondest memories with mi abuelita is putting this huge puzzle together of a white peacock. While putting the puzzle together I’d ask questions. I learned about my great grandparents falling in love despite my great grandmother being disowned because my great grandfather was a dark-skinned Puerto Rican. I learned about her and her siblings growing up in Puerto Rico. I learned about her journey from Puerto Rico to NYC for a better life at the age of 18 and working in a doll factory. I learned about her struggles raising five kids in Brooklyn. I learned that though she was a born again Christian, she dabbled with a little santeria in the past. It was a joy to watch her come to life telling her story. I can still picture the emotions on her face.
The disease rapidly took its toll on her and she reverted back to the behaviors of an infant within a year. She sadly passed 10 years ago on June 21, 2011, but the stories she shared with me will live in my memories forever. Rest in peace my angel, mi abuelita.
I grew up in a small town called Taos, New Mexico, on 13 acres of land my grandpa bought for his children to live on and raise alfalfa. My grandpa grew up in Taos but left at 16 to join the army. After finding out his real age during the Korean War, they “re-assigned” him to an Army Depot in CO. There he made a friend who worked for NASA inspiring him to get his degree in Engineering.
He got a job at NASA in Huntsville, AL and was part of the team that developed the technology for the Saturn V Rocket that eventually helped put astronauts on the moon. At 42, he retired, moved back to NM and started his journey raising alfalfa and gardening.
When I was young, I never understood the significance of it all. I just wanted to be involved anyway I could. It was fun, almost a game. Especially when the acequia would overflow into an empty yard. Nothing like running and sliding through the mud on a hot day! Or having handmade paper boat races down the ditches with my cousins. As I got older, I realized not everyone had these water rights my grandpa, mom and dad held so sacred. It was a blessing to be able to get the water when we did.
Now that I‘ve moved away and live in NYC, I’m so grateful for these experiences. I will forever cherish the memories I had with my grandpa, mom and dad irrigating and all the joyful times my cousins and I had just being kids in a big field running with water.
We recognize and celebrate the immense power of the diversity of our Latinx communities. We will continue to celebrate our families and our cultures and we encourage you to do the same. Here are some ways you can participate in honoring Latinx Heritage Month:
- Ask your family members to tell you stories about your ancestors.
- Ask what stories come to mind around the theme of sacrifice.
- Take time to connect with family members that you don’t regularly see. Schedule a Zoom family call to share stories or a meal.
- Prepare a meal or dish that your family a few generations ago might have prepared.