By Allison Flores, Intern
The formal definition of identity is “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” Shaped by one’s culture, ethnicity and background, it gives meaning to who we are as individuals, providing a sense of self and purpose. September to October is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time of celebration for Hispanic culture and the rich history it carries. For me, it’s been a month of reflecting on my identity and how it’s shaped me into a family member, friend and aspiring professional.
As a third-generation Hispanic, I’ve always struggled with maintaining my dual identities. My father is Puerto Rican and my mother is of European descent. Growing up, I was exposed to both cultures, but at times, I didn’t feel fully accepted. There were moments (and there still are to this day) when I didn’t feel Hispanic “enough” or White “enough.” As a child, English was my first language, but I spoke Spanish at home, in school, and with friends. I ate a mix of foods, listened to Latin and American music, and celebrated different cultural holidays. I felt as if I had two distinct identities, and for a while struggled with how to integrate them.
As I got older, I began to realize my diverse background made me unique and was a distinguishing part of my identity. I had a close family friend growing up who helped raise both me and my sister. From Irapuato, Mexico, she instilled in us to always value our culture, but especially our Hispanic heritage. From cooking authentic food, to reading Spanish novels, to spending time with family, she reminded me to stay grounded during times when I found myself drifting away from my roots. Being more in touch with my Hispanic identity inspired me to find new ways to integrate it into my daily life, including my career.
I have always been an advocate for minorities and believe that as a bilingual, I have the power to create change for diverse groups. However, promoting inclusion is something all of us can do, whether you speak one language, or multiple, come from a diverse background or don’t. That said, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I believe it’s important to continue to push for greater diversity in the workplace. As PR practitioners, we work with international brands, which means we’re working with international consumers. If we want to reach wider audiences, it’s critical that we consider how to implement diverse messaging into our communication strategies. The industry has made great progress, but in order to keep evolving we need to maintain cultural awareness and harness diverse thinking. Although it isn’t an easy process, understanding more about where our consumers come from and how they think will lead to stronger brand relationships and reputational outcomes.
Although at times I still feel conflicted by my dual identities, I am grateful to be a part of two communities that constantly inspire me to grow as an individual and employee. My Spanish heritage is an important piece of who I am, and I only plan on strengthening that connection as I get older. As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, I encourage our industry to find new ways to promote inclusion, connect with diverse cultures and embrace Hispanic identities.