Community Spotlight: Hispanic Heritage Month

Your stories have power. They bring ideas to life and can shape how others see the world, and here at Hearts, we use stories to build community.

This is one of many posts in our Community Spotlight Series, where we feature Hearts who identify with a group and have important conversations about how we can support one another.

Throughout the series, we will work closely with these individuals to create an experience where they can share their culture with fellow Hearts. We’ll hear directly from them about their lives, the safe spaces they’ve created to live their truth and how we can be better allies.

And then we listen.

Because more than ever, stories that celebrate our differences need to be heard.

Sharing a diversity of Hispanic culture

The beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) on September 15 marks a historic day for many Latin America countries. It’s the anniversary of independence from Spain for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Belize and Chile were soon to follow.

Today, HHM gives Americans the opportunity to broadly celebrate the history, cultures and contributions of all Americans whose ancestors came from Latin America and Spain.

From dancing and cooking to roundtable discussions and community spotlight pieces, the Hearts & Science Experience Team had no end of ideas to pull from.

One hit activity, salsa and bachata dancing over Zoom with Salsa in Queens, gave Hearts a way to try out two Latin styles of dance alongside some traditional rhythms.

Other activities gave participants like Anthony Diaz, director of platform operations, and Hazel Dalmau, media supervisor, a unique opportunity to discuss their backgrounds. In one discussion, they shared how they identify, the role language plays in their daily lives and explored pressing current events. Hazel reflects,

“It was interesting to see consistent themes surface around how we are working to keep our culture alive in our daily routines, even when we’re far away from our friends and family.”

The new CEO of Hearts & Science, Ralph Pardo, shared some of his own personal and professional experiences on another panel, which featured fellow Latino OMG leaders.

Safe spaces to share

How family anchors Anthony

Anthony Diaz was born into a Puerto Rican family and raised in a diverse neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, full of rich cultures and backgrounds. His family extended far beyond the walls of his apartment, down the halls and across the street. Whether by blood or by friendship, his family means everything to him.

Family gatherings with food and music have been a frequent form of celebration, and every year on Labor Day, his extended family gathers for a special barbecue at Prospect Park.

That tradition continues to this day and remains a special way to reconnect with family. Now Anthony can pass that culture and tradition to his own children as a safe space to connect with their roots.

Since moving out to Long Island, he has noticed that there are fewer Hispanic and Latino families in his neighborhood. He loves where he lives, but it has caused him to reflect,

“Of course I would love my kids to be in a diverse atmosphere, but it just means we have to be more intentional in assimilating our kids into different cultures.”

One way he’s doing that is through sports. Anthony has coached his son’s basketball team since his son was in fourth grade and believes that sports have the capacity to expose children to diverse people in constructive ways. He says it’s not always easy but that it can provide a great learning experience.

He also finds small ways to share his culture on a daily basis—in the music he listens to in the car or the food from a home-cooked meal.

Anthony’s pro tip: “Hispanic people are known for their work ethic, and it’s something I’m extremely proud of. Know what you’re bringing to the table. Be the person who is willing to get the job done and help out a teammate. Be that person, and people will recognize that you’re someone they want to go to war with.”

How Hazel looks for ways to revisit her roots

Hazel Dalmau was born in Puerto Rico, where American culture is tightly integrated into the existing Latin culture. She attended a private school where she learned English fluently and went to summer camps in the United States each year.

When she moved to New York City years later, she immediately felt at home within the city’s broader Puerto Rican community.

Though she moved away, she remains proud of her Puerto Rican heritage and fondly remembers her hometown of San Juan as a safe space for her. It was where she developed a sense of her culture, and today, she finds ways to reconnect with it in small ways.

“It’s important for me to find ways to keep my culture alive in my daily routines even though I’m far away from many friends and family.”

One of the ways she keeps her culture alive is by frequenting Latin restaurants and bars across New York City, where she can openly speak Spanish. In these places, she can feel for a brief moment like she’s back home. The music is loud, the energy is high and it’s an opportunity to revisit her roots.

She also loves to sit back and listen to Latin music—Bad Bunny, in particular, is one of her favorites. Puerto Rico may be a tiny island, but its cultural impact is huge.

Hazel’s pro tip: “It’s important to feel comfortable with who you are and your culture in order to move to another country and not lose a sense of your heritage and self. Keep your background alive, and don’t feel intimidated by where you’re going.”

Work should be a safe space too

Our Hispanic and Latino Hearts offer significant contributions to our company and society as a whole. At Hearts & Science, we want to recognize these efforts and do what we can to create a space where all employees feel celebrated and comfortable expressing themselves.

Here’s how we’re showing support:

  1. Participate in a network. Hearts & Science invites employees to access the OMG Latino Leadership Network and have a voice in how the company supports Hispanic and Latino employees and allies. Don’t have one at your company? Contact your human resources department and be the force for change that starts one.
  2. Attend upcoming company events. Attend every company event that you can. Learn, enjoy, represent your perspective and share feedback on how your company can create truly inclusive programming. If you don’t have any events, start one.
  3. Show your support. We created an email signature and a Zoom background for employees to use. It’s one small gesture you can make to show your support of Hispanic colleagues and partners and the greater community.

You have a part to play too:

  1. Shop at Hispanic-owned businesses. Hispanic-owned small businesses are one of the fastest-growing business groups in the United States, but COVID-19 has posed challenges to many small businesses that could now use more support than ever. News sites mitú and Remezcla have developed lists of Hispanic-owned businesses you can support.
  2. Support diversity of language. Hazel shares, “I’ve had friends speak casually together in Spanish and have complete strangers speak down to them in a demeaning way. Other languages should be something to celebrate.” Learn to love diversity.
  3. Start with education. Learning more about different perspectives is another great way to start. Read novels like “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” or watch films by Hispanic directors about Hispanic culture like “Mucho Mucho Amor.”

Alexis Giua, manager of employee engagement at Hearts & Science, shares, “Ask anyone what’s special about Hearts, and I’m sure that just about everyone here would say, ‘the people.’ We all bring unique perspectives and backgrounds to the table to create better work for our clients, and in turn, we want to spend time celebrating those special differences.”

Every culture has something beautiful to share with the world. Take a moment to look outside your own and find ways to celebrate what makes others unique.