Those with Hispanic and Latin heritages want to stay grounded to their roots as they expand their horizons in new locales around the world. The pressure to conform to local traditions and other people’s customs is growing, as is a widespread societal misunderstanding of their traditions and customs.
In the spirit of unidos – or unity – I asked the events co-leads of Zebra’s UNIDOZ Latinx and Hispanic inclusion network to help us understand how to become better allies to members of these communities so they don’t have to feel like they must assimilate to be accepted.
Rachel Domingo-Mahnke and Ruben Robles both shared what they’re doing to help Zebra colleagues and members of global communities feel comfortable revealing and celebrating their authentic selves in their daily lives, in the hopes that we’ll follow their lead. They also explain what “unidos” really means and how we can unite together to strengthen others and our communities as a whole. Read what they had to say…
Laura: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your involvement with UNIDOZ here at Zebra.
Ruben: I started at Zebra this past January, and I was excited to learn that Zebra had an inclusion network for Hispanics and Latinxs. After the first month of signing up for UNIDOZ, I saw an opening to join the UNIDOZ core team as an event co-lead. I jumped at the opportunity since I knew I wanted to get involved with Zebra’s inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts. Ever since joining UNIDOZ, I’ve helped prepare and coordinate for several virtual and in-person events.
Rachel: Well, I joined the company in 2019 and I am currently in a business operations role inside of our supply chain team here at Zebra. I have a mixed ethnic background as my father is from Mexico and my mother is of German and Irish descent. I have been a part of UNIDOZ’s core team since before our launch during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2020. More recently, I have taken on the role of co-leading UNIDOZ’s events team with Ruben.
Laura: Culturally speaking, the Hispanic community is extremely diverse. Yet, it seems mainstream representations lean into certain stereotypes. Are these stereotypes harmful and how do you think we could overcome these? Should we put additional focus on emphasising regional or country-level origins for traditions, food, music and more rather than relying on labels such Hispanic, Latin American or Latinx?
Ruben: Oftentimes people like to put a label or generalize culture because they don’t know or aren’t aware of the diversity of culture within the Latin and Hispanic communities. It’s dangerous to lean into stereotyping and generalize groups with a label. I think we can overcome stereotypes with awareness and education of how diverse the Latin and Hispanic communities are. Even within Hispanic and Latin American countries, the culture and traditions differ, so you can’t generalize or put a label on anything. My family is from Mexico and even within Mexico, there are so many different cultures and traditions that I keep on learning something new every time I visit or meet someone from a different region or even a different city.
Rachel: I agree. I think the typical representations of Latin and Hispanic people that are presented in mainstream media can absolutely be harmful in involuntarily perpetuating negative stereotypes of the community. Representation matters. If the only representation you see in the media of someone who looks like you are people who are uneducated or are criminals, over time it sends a message that you are somehow “less than.” By the way, this is even perpetuated by Hispanics as well through Spanish-based media outlets. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, one out of four children in the U.S. are Hispanic. I think it’s important to show positive Latin and Hispanic role models to today’s youth to serve as examples that they can and should be proud of their roots and be successful in whatever career they choose to go into.
Laura: Are there certain customs that you feel are being consigned to “history” by younger generations or society in general as people acclimate to different cultures and adopt new traditions? Or do you believe Hispanic heritages continue to be preserved and celebrated as they should be?
Ruben: Being a second-generation American growing up with parents from Mexico, we tended to celebrate the culture and traditions that my parents brought over from Mexico. There was a decent-sized population growing up in a mix of cultures in the suburbs of Chicago, but there was also the pressure to assimilate to fit in. In college, I finally learned to embrace and appreciate my culture. I took a Latin American history class, got involved in Hispanic student organizations, and got more involved in the Hispanic community. There are certainly new traditions that I adopted growing up in the U.S., while also keeping the traditions my family carried over.
Rachel: I think it’s wonderful that, today, it seems people are more open to embracing and celebrating cultural traditions than when I was a kid. When my father immigrated to the U.S., he wanted to embrace all things “America,” so we did not celebrate the traditional customs and practices that he grew up with in Mexico. My mother did not speak Spanish, and I was raised in a predominantly white community, so I only ever spoke English growing up. As an adult, I find myself wanting to learn more about my Latin heritage, so I have started learning how to cook traditional dishes, learning about different histories and traditions, and reading books by Latin authors.
Laura: The theme of Hispanic Heritage Month this year was Unidos, which couldn’t have been more perfect considering Zebra’s Hispanic and Latinx inclusion network is called UNIDOZ. What does this term mean to you and others in the Hispanic and Latin American community?
Rachel: This year’s theme talks about inclusivity for a stronger nation, which I love. As an inclusion network, when deciding on what to call ourselves, we wanted to choose a name we felt would embrace all Latin and Hispanic communities. Unidos means “united” in both Spanish and Portuguese. There are so many differences that could divide us, but by uniting, we can amplify our voices to be seen, heard, and valued.
Ruben: There’s a proverb that sums up my view on the theme Unidos: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” With so much divisiveness in today’s world, it’s important to recognize, respect and celebrate our differences and what makes us all unique. This applies even within the Hispanic and Lain American communities. By uniting as a community, we are stronger, and we can make a larger impact.
Laura: Though Hispanic Heritage Month is typically deemed a U.S. celebration, UNIDOZ has spent the last several weeks recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanics and Latinx people around the world, right?
Rachel: Yes, UNIDOZ is a global inclusion network, and we wanted to make sure that we celebrated Latin and Hispanic Heritage Month all around the world. While we have been hosting local events at several of our offices – from volunteer events to potlucks to Latin-inspired fitness classes – we also wanted to be sure to host several virtual events so that everyone can join in on the fun. In our virtual kick-off celebration, we shared ideas for how people can honor Latin and Hispanic Heritage Month, collaborated with Latino Arts, Inc. to host a virtual lotería session, and partnered with ZEAL (Zebra’s LGBTQ+ inclusion network) for a fun, informative trivia session honoring influential Hispanic and Latinx LGBTQ+ figures.
Ruben: As Rachel mentioned, Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity and time to appreciate the achievements, rich histories, colorful traditions and cultural diversity of all Hispanic and Latinx people, not just those currently in the U.S.
Laura: Inclusivity, another key theme of Hispanic Heritage Month, means different things to different people. Can you describe some of the expectations and challenges shared by the Hispanic and Latinx communities right now with regards to inclusion, both in the U.S. and around the world?
Ruben: Within the U.S., the Hispanic and Latin community is the second largest segment of the population at 18.7%, yet there’s under representation of the community in political leadership, and in the corporate boardroom. Only 1.5% of all elected officials in the U.S. are Hispanic, and Latinos and Latinas only hold 4% and 1% of all Fortune 1000 boardroom seats respectively, despite the growing Hispanic population. There’s still a long way to go to close the equality gap with regards to the inclusion of Hispanics in positions of influence. Also, companies and individuals can learn to embrace and respect other cultures and differences so there is no expectation that an individual needs to assimilate to succeed.
Rachel: Building on that, I think no matter where you go or whom you talk to, all people want to feel seen and valued for who they are. People want to be treated with dignity and respect. In my opinion, most Hispanics in the U.S. feel like they cannot be themselves in the workplace. We need to increase Hispanic representation in all positions of influence – in both the private and public sectors as well as communities in general – if we want to truly be more inclusive of Latin and Hispanic cultures.
Laura: As people have gathered to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at Zebra, have you found the conversations centering on certain topics – or perhaps issues – that are top of mind with Hispanics right now?
Rachel: One thing I have picked up from my time with UNIDOZ is how proud people are to share their individual histories, cultures, and traditions. And I am continually impressed with people’s curiosity and receptiveness to learning about each other’s cultures. While Zebra’s corporate culture fosters this curiosity, learning, and acceptance, I think we have some very big challenges with this in society as a whole – even within the Latin community itself. Gender inequality is a topic I hear frequently in talking to people in my family and community – from wage gaps all the way up to femicide. I hear a lot about colorism and how discrimination based on skin color happens within the Latin community as much as it can be directed toward us from the non-Hispanic population. In the U.S., Afro-Latinos are often double marginalized by Black, Hispanic, and Caucasian communities. Likewise, the double-marginalization faced by the Latinx LGBTQ+ community is a topic that often comes up when speaking to people I know and meet.
Ruben: As Rachel noted, there are many issues that face the Latin community disproportionately, from economic, to health, to social issues. In our events during Hispanic Heritage Month, UNIDOZ members have highlighted some of the inequalities that exist in the community to bring awareness to them, which is the first step to driving change.
Laura: We know allyship is critical if we want to eliminate systemic prejudices, social injustice and hate. So, what can companies and individuals do to uplift members of the Hispanic and Latin American communities around the world and drive progress toward equality?
Ruben: UNIDOZ’s mission sums up perfectly what companies can do to support the Hispanic and Latinx communities: advocate for the employment, development, and retainment of Hispanics and Latinxs and allies within the workforce. Companies can help create opportunities for underrepresented groups and reduce the equality gap by increasing the representation of Hispanics and Latinxs in positions of influence. Companies can also create awareness of systemic prejudices so that we can have courageous conversations that compel change in an open form and ultimately help eliminate systematic discrimination.
Rachel: Even outside the workplace, there are a lot of different ways allies can support and uplift the community. I think the first step is to be informed. Take some time to learn about the issues faced by marginalized communities. It’s ok to ask questions but do the work – don’t expect others to do the work for you. Make sure to approach issues from a place of curiosity and act with empathy. And if you see an opportunity to stand up for or shine a spotlight on someone from the Latin and Hispanic communities, please do so.
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