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For over 30 years, the US has observed Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, recognizing the history and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The month celebrates the contributions these people have made to the fabric of our society.
I was born into a mixed-race family. My mother is of Northern European heritage while my father is the first US-born child of Mexican immigrants. My paternal grandfather was a grocery store owner in Mexico. He kept the store afloat through tough economic times by working jobs in the US and sending money back home to his family in Mexico. During World War II, he received a draft notice while working in the US. Though he wasn’t selected to serve, he was given the opportunity to bring his family to the States and become a naturalized citizen.
Not too long ago, mixed marriages like my parents’, weren’t openly accepted in the US. Before I was born, my folks experienced this prejudice firsthand; they weren’t allowed to rent or buy property in certain neighborhoods in California because they’re an interracial couple. They eventually settled in east San Jose, where I grew up — a neighborhood known for being a little rough around the edges. That experience and growing up in that community strengthened my career goals and helped shape the person I am today.
My parents always wanted the best for me and taught me to want the best for myself. At an early age, it was instilled in me that education and hard work are key ingredients to success. Though the Vietnam War interrupted my father’s college education, his perseverance made him successful in work and family life. To this day, he remains to be one of my biggest role models.
My mother and father were very involved in my schoolwork, making sure I stayed on top of my grades — and driving me to participate in athletics and other programs in high school to set me up on a path to get into a top university. I became the first person in my immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Through an ad in the San Jose Mercury News, I landed a job at a local, family-run wireless technology company while I was still in college. The founder took a chance on a sophomore from Santa Clara University who knew nothing about technology or business. He helped me learn about business and finance in Silicon Valley, which completely changed my career trajectory.
Hispanic culture taught me to have a strong work ethic. Often, however, society still creates an underlying sense of having to prove ourselves to others — and proving that we belong here. But thanks to the positive impact that generations of Hispanics have brought to American culture, and role models like my mentor who continue to open doors of opportunity, I hope this mentality will continue to fade.
As we begin our celebrations for Hispanic Heritage Month at Genesys, I’m excited to share my experiences and learn about the unique stories from our diverse Latinx community.
Being Hispanic isn’t about race, what language you speak or what country you’re from. It’s about culture and the unique values we share and pass on for generations. I hope the upcoming month will bring to light the benefits of diversity and cultural awareness as we collectively discover the many Hispanic influences that help shape our communities today.
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