Voices that Join Together Celebrate as One: Hispanic Heritage Month 2022
Each year, millions observe Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 in a celebration of the stories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whos ancestors arrived from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. It is an opportunity for Hispanic Americans and allies to promote and support generations of contributions from the Hispanic American communities. At TD SYNNEX, we host a number of business resource groups (BRGs) whose purpose is to promote the recruitment, retention, enablement and advancement of members and allies of underrepresented communities. We reached out to several members of our Hispanic co-worker BRG, Fuerza, to gain new perspectives and understanding of the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Participants:
- Malissa Brust, client analyst, Apple vendor solutions
- Hector Garcia, director, talent management
- Vanessa Kraft, vendor marketing manager, USPS NetApp
- Ed Morales, global vice president, security & high-growth business development
Tell us a little about your Hispanic heritage.
Malissa: My grandparents on my mom’s side are from the Dominican Republic. They migrated from DR to New York city. They started a new life for themselves and raised a family of four kids. My grandmother is the one who taught me about my Hispanic Heritage. She taught me how to cook delicious Dominican dishes.
Hector: I am Cuban American, I was born in the US to Cuban parents who met in the US after both coming over in exile in 1961. My heritage is both from Spain and Cuba as one of my Grandfather was born in Oviedo, Spain and moved to Cuba in the early 1920s and my other grandfather was born in Manzanillo, Cuba.
Vanessa: Both of my parents are from Cuba and migrated to the states at a young age. My father tells me stories about how my grandfather worked at the sugarcane factory for many years in Cuba. When the Cuban government changed, my grandfather registered his family to leave the country and was fired from his job.
He was then forced to work for the government like a prisoner for 3 years gathering sugar cane, tobacco, and performing just about any work for the country- prior to escaping Cuba.
My grandmother would visit the camp with my father to bring my grandfather food and see his family. They were limited to one hour each visit. Six months prior to escaping Cuba, he met a Chief that allowed him to cook for the Cuban military at the camp site as his primary job where he was also allowed to indulge in the food. The “Okay” to leave the country was delivered as a letter by a guard- my father’s family left the island by plane to Miami.
Growing up in Florida, my parents made authentic Cuban dishes that I cook now for my family and I’ve always enjoyed dancing to Latin music.
Ed: I’m a 2nd generation Mexican American. Paternal grandfather came to the US from Saltillo, Coahuila Mexico in the early part of the 1900s and settled in San Benito, Texas. He was a laborer for the Union Pacific Railroad, building and managing rail tracks across country. He and my grandmother raised family of 9 — including my father. Father graduated from University of Houston Pharmacy School in 1963 and worked with Kroger -eventually being promoted to regional executive position in the late 70s which made him one very small number of Hispanic executives within Kroger Corporation. Eventually he established his own wholesale Latin grocery company, sold the company and then ‘retired’ — completing his career and life back where he had his first passion — as a pharmacist.
Why is Hispanic Heritage Month important to you, personally?
Hispanic Heritage is important to me because not only do I learn more about my heritage, but everyone is together celebrating it!
Only half of my heritage is Dominican, so growing up the only real exposure I had was through food and the Spanish novelas my mother would watch. I did not grow up speaking Spanish, so I felt there was a big gap in my knowledge about my heritage. I made it a point to learn about my Hispanic history and culture so I can fully celebrate it with everyone.
Hector: HHM to me means celebrating a culture that is vibrant, divers in itself, and which I am proud of.
Vanessa: HHM is important to me because it’s a time to highlight Latin culture through food, music, dance, art and so much more. It’s an opportunity to invite everyone to get involved in activities and initiatives we have going on in support of Hispanic Heritage Month. Personally, I really enjoy how I learn something new every year when listening to stories or doing deeper research. Each Latin country is different in its’ own special way and there’s no better time to become more acquainted with the traditions and way of life each country offers. It’s a fun time to learn, celebrate and get connected to the community.
Ed: Growing up in the 1940s/1950 in South Texas was a challenging time for Mexican American children — including my parents. Many may not know, however at one time it was corporal punishment in school to speak Spanish. I heard from elder family members of the varied forms of punishment given for speaking Spanish in school. Even my father’s given name of “Eluterio” was changed by his 3rd grade teacher to “Terry” because they couldn’t pronounce his name. (It was a name he kept and used his whole life.) Because of this dynamic, my father made it mandatory that we (myself and siblings) would speak English first to ensure we would be acclimated to the American culture to avoid these challenges. I’ve recently learned in speaking to others Hispanics from Texas within my generation, many were raised similarly by their parents with focus towards an English-first and only approach. Due to challenges our parents generation faced, we were not provided an opportunity to be raised and fluent in both English and Spanish. Nevertheless, the Mexican American culture was absolutely ingrained into the soul — the traditions, the food, the music, the familial experiences — particularly growing up in the border town of Laredo, Texas.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a reminder to the honor of all those who endure to maintain connection to our past while still forging a pathway to an ever-expanding diverse force (fuerza) that empowers our Hispanic culture.
How do you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
Malissa: Some of the things I do for Hispanic Heritage Month is cook all my favorite Hispanic foods. I also try to learn how to make different types of Hispanic food from different regions. If there is an event or a gathering, I try to go to those as well!
Hector: I usually have hosted a gathering at my home during one of the weekends as a “potluck” where all guest bring a dish that is there favorite to share from the Cuban culture or their respective Hispanic culture. Those that are not Hispanic usually bring a Latin dish that they like.
Vanessa: In the past, I’ve celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by taking part in performances whether that was dancing or playing an instrument, educating my teams about Latin countries/traditions and giving back to the Hispanic community. One of my favorite memories is a merengue dance that a group of friends and I choreographed to perform in front of our school in Junior High for HHM. We dressed up in traditional Spanish clothing- floral skirts, off-the-shoulder white blouses and put flowers in our hair. It is a memory that I will always remember and hold close to my heart. I am looking forward to celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Fuerza going forward and starting new traditions that we can share with the rest of our co-workers here at TD SYNNEX.
What do you want people to know about Hispanic Heritage Month?
Malissa: I want people to know that the Hispanic community might be under the same umbrella, but we do not all have the same traditions.
There are fascinating nuances that makes each subset of Hispanic culture different.
Vanessa: No matter your ethnicity, you can get involved in some way. Join Latinos Run with Fuerza, donate to a local Hispanic organization, offer your bilingual skills, and/or support local Latin businesses. At the end of the day, it’s about unity while also amplifying the Hispanic voices during the months of September and October.
Read our feature from the 2021 Hispanic Heritage Month, TD SYNNEX’ employee resource group, Fuerza, honors Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month with HOPE.