Staff Voices: What Does Latine & Hispanic Heritage Month Mean to You?
Latine & Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the diversity of perspectives and experiences that exist within Latine & Hispanic communities. Today we celebrate this month by lifting the voices and sharing the perspectives of two of BBBSPS’ Latine & Hispanic staff members. In the interviews below, staff members Lidia and Ana share about their backgrounds, their experiences at BBBSPS, and what Latine & Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.
Interview 1: Lidia, Senior Program Manager – Match Support
A lot of our staff are transplants to this region, are you a local or from somewhere else? I’m originally from Marvel Falls, Texas, which is a small town about 50 miles west of Austin. I’ve been in Washington for about 8 years. I had visited the area with some friends and fell in love with the air and the mountains. I came to Washington to start a new adventure and get outside of my comfort zone.
How long have you worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound? I started in March of 2021, so around a year and a half.
Where were you working before? I worked in Higher Education & then started working in BIPOC centered non-profits and focusing on working with youth.
What’s your favorite part of what you do here at BBBSPS? I love being able to connect with youth and community members and helping young people work toward their goals. I enjoy it because I know how much it matters – I didn’t always have someone to help me like a mentor does when I was growing up.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work? I like running, hiking, and reading.
What are you most excited about for the future at BBBSPS? I’m excited about being intentional and connecting more deeply with our matches with more support and activities.
What does Latine & Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? This month provides Latine & Hispanic communities an opportunity to showcase the beauty of our individual traditions, experiences and cultures. For me personally, it is a moment to share my story as a Mexican American, a daughter of immigrants, and a proud and resilient Latina. From my parents, I learned perseverance and the relentless desire to thrive. From my community, I learned to strengthen and elevate the voices of all individuals.
This month also represents an opportunity to honor those who trailblazed and who have supported the past, present and the future of the Latine community. Join me in celebrating the true and diverse beauty of our cultures and traditions by learning, growing and celebrating our resiliency. It takes community, understanding and inclusion to move the familia onward, adelante!
Interview 2: Ana, Enrollment Coordinator
A lot of our staff are transplants to this region, are you a local or from somewhere else? I was born and raised in Kent until I was 9 years old and then I moved to the Dominican Republic. I lived in Santo Domingo West on and off until I was 13 years old. I learned Spanish while in the DR – living with my family who spoke Spanish really necessitated learning.
I want to share that I identify as Latinx. I’m half Dominican, half white, and I present as white, so my experience is that of a white person. I love my heritage and it’s who I am, but I know I don’t share the experience of folx who present as POC.
How long have you worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound? It’s been about…almost a year and five months.
Where were you working before? Ernie’s Truck Stop in Kent
What’s your favorite part of what you do here at BBBSPS? For the longest time it was talking to kids and hearing their stories – young people share a lot of tender thoughts and moments. In our interviews we ask if they had three wishes what would they use them for, and some kids even at a young age will say these wonderful things like “I wish there was no homelessness”, “I wish nobody was poor”, “I would use my wish to get my mom a house.” Hearing those things really hits you. Now that my role has changed a bit I would say it’s making matches and hearing back when the match is going really well. A parent emailed recently and said “You knocked it out of the park with this match” and that really meant a lot.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work? When I was young, reading took me out of my life and put me somewhere else. I lost that in college but rediscovered and recommitted this year. I have read over 160 books this year! I like romance, fantasy, and what I call “isolated angst” but only if there’s a happy ending.
What are you most excited about for the future at BBBSPS? I’m excited about having waitlist activities – it’s important to recognize the needs of youth who are waiting for mentors – we have fewer mentors for black girls and boys so it’s important to provide activities while they wait
What does Latine & Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? Actually, I love this question. I was just watching a tiktok, as one does, of someone who doesn’t identify with either of these terms because it’s all so rooted in colonialism. I think this month is a time to remember all of the communities and peoples who’ve suffered under colonialism. In the DR Arrowak is the overall name of the native peoples and specifically the Taino people populated the island of Hispaniola (where the DR is) but basically they don’t exist as a people anymore. We remember them and use some words and names, but the people are basically gone because of colonialism. To me, as a trans person who knows there’s a strong history of gender variance on the island where my people come from – colonialism wiped that out and now my culture is reconnecting with it’s rich history of understanding of genders outside the binary. I think it’s a reminder that we go far deeper than the colonialist rule that came to our shores.
When I came out as trans I was worried my family in the DR would not like it, but they were very open and welcoming. There’s this kind of remembered history in the culture of a time when we were different, a cultural memory of when gender variance – and therefore people like me – were present and accepted.