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Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month 10.5.2022 | Ruhi Van Andel

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated across the US every year from September 15 to October 15. It’s a time to shine a spotlight on the countless contributions, multifaceted cultures, and rich histories of those who identify as Hispanic and Latino.

Hispanic refers to people from or descended from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Spain, and Latino refers to those from – or who trace their ancestry back to – Latin American countries, including nations like Mexico and Haiti. It’s important to note that, like most broad categorizations, these aren’t perfect. There are Indigenous cultures within Spanish-speaking nations who may not identify with the culture or language of these countries. Identity is a complicated beast – when in doubt, just ask (respectfully)!

Beginning in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month was originally observed as “Hispanic Heritage Week”, and in 1988 was extended to a month-long nationwide celebration marked by festivals, art shows, conferences, community gatherings, and much more. The timing of this celebratory month coincides with the independence days of several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (September 15th), Mexico (September 16th), and Chile (September 18th).

At Weichert, one of our Core Beliefs is Believing in Each Other. This means we support and respect what every colleague brings to the table, and acknowledge that the things that make us different are every bit as vital as the things we have in common. To that end, we are seizing this opportunity to learn more about the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month to our team members. Leaders of our Inclusion Alliance, one of Weichert’s employee resource groups, invited colleagues to share their stories and experiences as members of the Latino community in the United States.

Here are some snippets of the powerful (and inspirational) stories they shared with us:

When did you or your family members move to the USA? How do you celebrate your Hispanic heritage here in the States?

 

Malu Lopez-Llamozas, Client Services Director: I first arrived in the US in 2005 as a single mother of 4, having secured a temporary job. But it didn’t take me long to fall in love with this country – and the American Dream – and I then knew this would be our new permanent home. But don’t get me wrong, it was a very challenging transition. The only jobs I could secure at first were nannying, and later waitressing, which were hard but brought food in. Things changed a lot for our family when I joined Weichert in 2007.

The American dream is for fighters. It’s very difficult. I was suffering, working relentlessly, and hardly seeing my kids until Weichert gave me an opportunity. To this day, I reflect a lot on where I am now and where I came from. Every single sacrifice was worth it. It’s paying off now as I see my family living the lives I wanted for them.

In Ecuador, gathering and celebrating with good food is in our roots! And we continue this here, to celebrate holidays from our own country, as well as the American ones.

Marynel Dillon, International Workforce Mobility Counselor: Growing up in Venezuela, I fell in love with the English language as a high schooler, so at the age of 16, my parents sent me to the States to study. Not being a confident English speaker here was a huge challenge, and I made plenty of mistakes along the way – some of which were funny, and some, not so funny. One that I vividly remember was being shouted at by an angry man in Knoxville, Tennessee, who had asked me to hold a door open for him to avoid being locked out while he grabbed something from his car. I had no idea what was being asked of me, so naturally, he was locked out. The uncomfortable situations like these really light a fire in you to learn the language quickly!

I returned home to Venezuela and came back to the States on a transfer from work. But this time was different and a huge struggle. It was my first time in the country, not as a student, but as a professional…married and without any credit history!

I had my child here in the US, and raising her as a single mom was another huge hurdle. I had no choice but to leave her in an English-speaking daycare for very long hours while I worked, and as her English fluency grew, she didn’t want to speak Spanish at home. After living here for 30 years, my daughter is only starting to learn more Spanish as more of my family from Venezuela are moving here. I’ve tried hard to keep the Latin American part of me alive to share with my daughter, who has spent her whole life here. I want her to share these values and an appreciation for the culture. In Venezuela, many holidays we celebrate center around gathering and sharing (great) food with those you love. I’m fortunate to have my mother here in the States, who cooks Venezuelan food regularly, which isn’t widely available here.

It’s been a journey, but I’m happy to be here and am proud of all I’ve achieved. It was hard, and those challenges changed me – doing it all alone without help – but I’m so grateful for the opportunities that living here has afforded me.

Lorena Leal, International Workforce Mobility Counselor: I’m from Mexico, where I had a background in architecture and no plans to come to the US. But my husband proposed, said he had plans to apply to a grad school in the US, and popped the even bigger question of “will you come with me?”! We picked a month to marry and moved to Evanston, Illinois, for school with big dreams and 11 pieces of luggage. Before graduating, he got a job offer in Ohio – fast forward 23 years, ten relocations, and three kids later, and here we are!

Like my teammates, I can share that our journey was not an easy one either, particularly with all the relocations we made along the way for my husband’s work. We missed weddings, birthdays, and holidays… but being alone made our little family unit even stronger. And looking back, we think we made a good decision – our journey has given us perspective, options, and opportunities – all of which we wouldn’t have had in our home country.

Because I couldn’t practice architecture in the US, I found work teaching Spanish in my kids’ school and later became a real estate agent. It was in this role that I was exposed to the relocation industry, and my path crossed with Malu, which led to a job at Weichert Workforce Mobility!

Do you have any stories you’d like to share or guidance for expats into the US who come from LATAM?

 

Malu: My biggest advice would be to take full advantage of the tools at your disposal, even if they don’t seem like priorities at the time. Most notably, Cross-Cultural Training. It’s not being enforced by many of the clients we support, but it brings such value and can hugely impact your long-term success as an assignee. It’s a considerable change to relocate to the States and be successful, so you need guidance on building your credit history…seasonal changes…HOW TO DRIVE IN THE SNOW! I’d like to argue that services like this should be a core benefit and are also vital for the repatriation process.

Lorena: I’ve relocated across the US, and even internally within states, and I have always been the spouse, which is how I can speak to how challenging this role is. With each move, I had to reconfigure my own career and support my children through each transition… it’s a significant burden on the trailing partner and can also impact the assignment’s success, especially if there is a language barrier!

I would stress that companies take this into consideration, offering spousal support and language training where necessary – and I would also encourage assignees to use these services when offered!  You never know what opportunities may arise for you as a spouse unless you use all the available tools. I wish I had taken more advantage of these resources from the beginning.

Marynel: All I have to add is the value of flexibility and adaptability. Not only for the assignees but also for the companies employing them. Relocating families should be open to embracing new cultures, traditions, and ways of doing things. But companies also need to understand the unique needs of each family- everyone needs a different combination of support to be successful.

 

Keen to learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month? Check out this site curated by The Library of Congress to find a collection of videos, learning resources, and events.

 

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Written by Ruhi Van Andel

Ruhi is the Digital Content Specialist on Weichert’s Marketing team. Leveraging a decade of experience in writing and marketing, she develops buzz-worthy content for the company’s website and social media channels, as well as for client and colleague communications.

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