Today marks the culmination of Hispanic Heritage Month, a month-long celebration of Latin American and Spanish people, history, and culture.
As we reflect on this past month, the appreciation and awareness needn’t stop here. We interviewed PI’s own Maribel Olvera, SVP of Operations, and Jamie Whited, Director of User Operations, to continue the dialogue around this rich, diverse culture—and what we all gain to learn from it.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Maribel Olvera, SVP Of Operations
Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to highlight the cultural affluence of our communities. As we honor the traditions of our cultures and share them with others, we help drive diversity of thought across the many teams and organizations we are part of.
Jamie Whited, Director of User Ops
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for our family to recognize my mother’s South American culture, and give tribute to the food, relationships, and language her family brought over from Chile.
Can you share a story or cultural tradition unique to your family?
My mother and her family immigrated from Chile to Louisiana in 1965. My grandfather was in the Panamanian Coast Guard, and he was able to join the U.S. Coast Guard and bring my mother and her family over to the U.S. It took them two years—along with financial background checks, medical checks, and so much more—to get their approval.
My mother became a U.S. citizen at the age of 18. She found out when her principal called her up to the office to announce it to her ❤️. She then joined the U.S. Air Force to give back to the country that had provided her and her family so much opportunity.
New Year’s Eve in Ecuador! It’s actually called Old Year; weeks before the day, families get together to build a “monigote,” which is a puppet built of wood, paper, and fabric. These can represent a politician, a celebrity, a cartoon character, or just someone you dislike.
Monigotes are then filled with fireworks and burned at midnight on the streets. Throughout the evening, men will dress in drag to represent the “viudas”: the widows of the old year. They recite poems summarizing the good and bad happenings of the year. This symbolizes being done with the old year and ready for a new start.
While we don’t follow the above traditions when we spend New Year’s Eve in the U.S., there are three others that we do maintain:
- Hold money in our hands at midnight.
- Wear yellow underwear.
- Eat 12 grapes for 12 months of success.
Photo credit: Agencia de Noticias ANDES
How can people help celebrate and honor this month?
For anyone looking to celebrate these various cultures, I encourage three activities:
- Experience a hispanic artist. This could be a writer (Garcia Marquez is one of my favorites), a painter, or a singer. At work, host a book club or a movie day.
- Support a hispanic-owned business. Support comes in many forms, whether that’s making a purchase or leaving a positive review. At work, consider promoting local businesses.
- Prepare a hispanic dish or drink. (Ceviche and pisco sour are great options.) At work, plan a cookout or participate in a mixology class.
Say something in a hispanic language to someone you know. Even if it’s just “good morning,” it will mean a lot to them to hear it.
Resources to learn more about hispanic culture
Whether you’re a stalwart advocate for Hispanic Heritage Month or you’re learning about it for the very first time, there’s always room to learn and grow.
Further your appreciation for hispanic culture by checking out the following resources:
- CNN: Why Hispanic Heritage Month starts in the middle of September
- Library of Congress: National Hispanic American Heritage Month 2021
- PBS: 31 Stories for 31 Days of Hispanic Heritage Month
- NPR: Yes, We’re Calling It Hispanic Heritage Month And We Know It Makes Some Of You Cringe
- CNBC: 6 powerful books to read during Hispanic Heritage Month — for yourself and your kids
Why sharing culture is so important
Heritage months are about far more than acknowledgement or appreciation. They’re an opportunity to open our hearts, broaden our perspectives, and push boldly out of our own comfort zones.
In sharing some of today’s stories, we hope you’ll continue to embrace what’s new to you. Try a new dish or recipe for your next meal. Ask a friend or family member to share a story you’ve never heard before. Check out a television show or movie in a language different than yours.
Culture is what makes each of us unique. It’s also what unites us and makes us stronger. For more resources on how to build a cohesive workplace and community, visit our Change@Work page.