Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana: colleagues share how their heritage has influenced them
Each year, we observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of the Hispanic/Latinx community. To celebrate this year, we asked a few HCA Healthcare colleagues to share how their Hispanic/Latinx heritage has impacted them and how they are making an impact on the next generation. Read their stories below!
Palmira Arellano, VP, Communication and Community Affairs, Methodist Healthcare (San Antonio, Texas)
Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Mexican-American
“My parents and grandparents set the foundation for my future, teaching me the meaning of working hard to provide for your family, always giving back to those in need and showing respect to those who have experience in life. Most importantly, they taught me to treat others equally and form relationships with those I met, no matter their status. In essence, I learned to care like family from those who surrounded me as a child.
I feel an obligation to extend all that I have learned and pass it on to future generations. I have mentored many young people and interns throughout my 35-year career, as it is an instinctive act based on my upbringing that no doubt was heavily influenced by my Hispanic heritage.”
Michael Garza, Sr. Platform Engineer, Meditech Services, ITG (Nashville, Tennessee)
Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Mexican-American
“My parents were Mexican citizens that immigrated to the United States to pursue a better life and become American citizens. Even in their pride of being American, they still conveyed to me their love of Mexican culture, the food, the music and the spirit of the people.
I hope to impact all in the telling of my story, in the blessings that I have received, in communicating the importance of education, in having a command of the language (my mother would say to me, ‘Michael, learn English and learn it well!’), and in the importance to contribute to those around me.”
Alma Fojas, Campus Recruiting Lead, HCA Healthcare (Nashville, Tennessee)
Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Guatemalan
“I was born in Guatemala, where my mother worked as a nurse for approximately 20 years. When my father had the opportunity to work in the USA and gain citizenship for himself and his children, he jumped at the opportunity. Seeing my mother leave her nursing career behind and move to a country where she did not know the language was eye opening to me. I may have been too young to truly understand it at the time, but she had to transition from having a career she was immensely proud of to being a nanny for a family she could barely communicate with. This taught me to take more pride in the work I immerse myself in, and the beautiful relationships I have in my life. She may not have lived up to the high tiers of American society, but she is a top tier human being and that is the number one thing I strive to be.
I am making an impact on the next generation by simply being an example of someone who has started off a little behind for many factors. English wasn’t my first language, I didn’t have U.S. college-educated parents to guide me on the dos and don’ts of professional life, I didn’t inherit a network but that’s OK. It has made the small successes in my life that much sweeter. I want the next generation to be proud of their upbringing and to be grateful for the journey. The beautiful, bright colors of our Hispanic heritage binds us all in a special way and the world would be more taupe without those colors.”
Andrea Grisham, Business Intelligence Analyst, HealthTrust (Nashville, Tennessee)
Hispanic/Latinx heritage: Puerto Rican
“I am a mixed race Puerto Rican. My father is a dark skinned Puerto Rican and my mother was fair skinned. They taught us to love how we looked and embrace others no matter the color of their skin or background. We learned in our family that being Puerto Rican was no different than being American. Partly because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, but also because so many ethnicities make up most of the American population. We, as Americans, are multi-cultural and multi-ethnic; we are members of one big melting pot. I believe, because of this, my experience growing up was one of image positivity and the acceptance of everyone. All my life I have sought to know more about others and their backgrounds.
The impact of being raised Puerto Rican and proud has led me to seek opportunities to learn more about various cultures and countries. I especially have a love for my Latin community and immerse myself in the wide variety of cultures within it. Often, I find myself teaching others about what I have learned and experienced about Latinos and my children have also inherited this love and thirst for knowledge. I am committed to being a translator of not only language, but also of cultures and values that run so deep in all of us that are part of the Latin community.”
Jimena Saenz, Director, Strategic Planning & Analytics, Methodist Healthcare (San Antonio, Texas)
Hispanic/Latinx Heritage: Mexican
“As a Mexican immigrant primarily raised in Texas, my culture is not only part of my identity, but it has played a vital role in my life. My parents and I moved to San Antonio, Texas, when I was five years old from Mrida, Yucatn, Mexico. My parents demanded a lot from me academically, and as I excelled in English, they made sure that I would never lose my fluency in Spanish. They gave me extra Spanish homework by making a rule that whenever inside the household, we could only speak in Spanish to one another. I am proud that this fluency has helped me not only gain employment with international initiatives, but also allows me to help a stranger looking for how to get on the right bus heading downtown. This is what I want to gift my children as well.
My husband is Mexican-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, so our cultures are distinct, but together important to raise our sons as proud first-generation Mexican-Americans who can speak Spanish and cook amazing meals from different parts of Mexico and South Texas. The morals we learned from our respective families, those of honesty, loyalty and a strong work ethic, are things we strive to instill in our children. We hope that through language and a strong culture rooted in our traditions like Hanal Pixan (the Mayan celebration of the dead), Posadas (the journey that Mary and Joseph took before Jesus was born), having tamales with Christmas dinner, and going back to Mexico to visit our family (as they are all still there), we can exemplify the vibrant Mexican heritage of customs and cuisine to our young sons.”
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