My story begins in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in South America, where I was born and raised. At the age of 16 my mother moved me and my younger brother to the United States in search of the famous “American dream.” At that age, I didn’t know what that meant, but according to my mother, we had to move so that we, her children, could have a better future. My story is not unique. There are millions of stories like mine among the Hispanic population. After all, according to the latest U.S. Census Report, more than 60 million people identify as Hispanic or Latino, making us the second largest minority in the U.S.
Having lived here for more than half of my life, I consider the U.S. my home. And to my mother’s satisfaction her children did achieve what she considers “a better future.” I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, I work for a great company doing a job I love, I have a wonderful son and husband, and seven years ago we bought our first American home. My brother achieved that “better future” as well. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard, has traveled the world, has moved up the ranks, also having a job he enjoys and a wife he loves. We did what we came here to do, take advantage of the many opportunities this country offered us, making sure my mother’s sacrifices were not in vain.
It is hard to move to a country that doesn’t speak your language. It is even harder to find that balance between embracing a new culture while maintaining the traditions of your country of origin or in many cases the country of origin of your parents, grandparents and great grandparents. I’ve heard countless stories of first- and second-generation Hispanic Americans whose parents didn’t want their children to speak Spanish in an effort to “fit in.” Fortunately, that way of thinking has changed. Today, my husband and I make every effort at home so our four-year-old son can be bilingual and learns to love our traditions.
My husband is from Mexico, but also went to school in the U.S., so our home is a mixture of American, Ecuadorian and Mexican traditions intertwined in the most beautiful way possible. So one day you may find us playing Loteria, which is the Mexican version of the popular board game Bingo, another night you may find us watching The Avengers (our son’s latest obsession), reading children’s books in English or Spanish depending on my son’s mood that day, or eating patacones, a popular Ecuadorian dish for breakfast. This is not only my family’s reality, but the reality of millions of families out there. It is a beautiful thing really. Something that my family celebrates every day.
Hispanic Heritage Month
But when it comes to celebrations, there is no bigger celebration of Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S. than Hispanic Heritage Month. Entering its fourth decade as an official celebration, Hispanic Heritage Month marks the countless ways Hispanics have helped build the country we live in today. Well before I arrived in 1998.
From activists like labor organizer Cesar Chavez fighting in the 60s and 70s for better wages and conditions for farm workers and more recently government leaders like U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. To one of my personal heroes, Sonia Sotomayor, who I met when I was a college student in D.C., the first Latina Justice to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court. Our legacy and impact spans across industries and includes corporate executives, artists, musicians, actors, athletes, scientists and more that have all contributed to the American landscape.
When I think of all these individuals and the many ways Hispanic and Latino communities have contributed to the U.S. culture, my heart fills with pride. I want my son to grow up knowing these names and knowing that in this country, he can be anything he wants to be. The American dream is different for all of us. For my mother it was bringing her children to the U.S. for a better education and better opportunities. For me it was to finish college, have a career and make an impact in the community where I live and work. For my son it could be to become the next Latino CEO or the next president.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to take some time to learn about all the different aspects of our culture. I invite you to try something new this month, a new drink, a new dish (we are known for excellent food), a new book by a Latin author, or a simple conversation with a colleague or neighbor to learn their story. Keep in mind that the Hispanic/Latin community is vast, and different terms carry different connotations to different people. Combat the universalizing aspect of terms like Latinos, Latinas and Hispanic by intentionally referencing things by country of origin. If you’re talking about Mexican cuisine, be specific. If you are referencing Argentine dance, make that clear. There is so much to celebrate and honoring cultural origins by name shows you have done your homework.
I am fortunate that I can celebrate the festivities both in my personal and professional life. Throughout its history, Pitney Bowes has valued diversity and has been committed to leveraging our differences to reach common goals. This month, Pitney Bowes will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by sharing the stories, cultures, and contributions of Pitney Bowes employees.
This is my story. What’s yours?