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Celebrating Our Latina Team Members for National Hispanic Heritage Month

Written by Ellen Zhang on October 1, 2021
5 min read

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! Starting on September 15th to coincide with the independence days of Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, Hispanic Heritage Month extends until October 15th.

This year, we’re excited to celebrate our amazing Latina team members. Keep reading to get to know our Head of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships Paula Mora, our Head of Customer Success Isidora (Izzy) Prohaska, and our Partnerships and Business Development Associate Aura Ordóñez.

What does National Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

Paula: It’s a time to reflect on all the sacrifices and the impact that the Hispanic community has had in the U.S. From social movements to cultural relevance, our heritage is deeply woven into the past, present, and future of our country. Personally, it’s also a time of gratitude and admiration towards my own family, who made the tough decision to flee oppression and violence from Colombia in search of the American Dream.

Aura: Hispanic Heritage Month is a time where I celebrate how people of color in my home country and in my community have accomplished movement and change. It is a time I reflect on how our gente have strove to reach certain levels of independence politically, economically, and socially; and how we can continue to celebrate our roots, uplift each other in these spaces, and continue growing and learning. 

Izzy: National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and recognize the achievements, history, and culture of Hispanic communities and how they have impacted and shaped our country. For me, it is also a time to celebrate Chile’s independence day on September 18th!

How has being Latina shaped your career?

Paula: Growing up as an immigrant, in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood showed me the power of community, but it also showed me the constraints of social mobility and the often invisible walls to economic freedom. Seeing my parents sacrifice their career to earn a decent living propelled me to seek academic excellence and instilled in me a strong conviction to create a career with a purpose: to not only make my parents proud but to serve others who also seek a better future. That is why I’m so proud to be part of Symba and work towards our mission to #openuptheworkforce.

Aura: Being Latina has instilled a strong sense of work ethic and values that helped mold my career journey. As a Nicaraguan immigrant and first generation Latina American, I credit my determination to continue forward even stronger to the defiant leaders in my family who raised me and taught me about economic mobility; and also the type of access to opportunities there exists in our communities and remaining work that still needs to be done. It is a huge part of how I have navigated professional endeavors in my life.

Izzy: Spanish is definitely something that has been vital in growing my career. Working in the midwest, I was typically one of the few, if not the only, Spanish speakers on my team in the various companies I’ve worked for. Being able to jump in and help out with presentations, translations, reading, writing, and more was a huge asset. Beyond that, being an immigrant has instilled a strong work ethic within me that has immensely impacted my career and growth. 

How are you celebrating this month?

Paula: You can find me blasting my favorite Latinx artists on Spotify. One of my favorite playlists features some of the artists that shaped our experience as immigrants living in the U.S. and brings me right back to my childhood in Colombia. Also, eating out at some of my favorite local Hispanic-owned restaurants like Tortas y Tacos La Chiquita in Arlington, VA.

Aura: I’m celebrating this month by reading more books by Latinx authors! I am currently reading Corazon, Tesoro y Hermosura by my favorite Central American poet, Yesika Salgado. If you love poems, this one is gold and you should definitely add it to your list.

Izzy: September 18th is Chile's Independence Day and it's filled with food, friends, and family for an all day celebration.

What are ways organizations can celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month and their Hispanic and Latinx employees?

Paula: A simple acknowledgment of the start of the month and the reassurance that your Latinx employees are seen and valued can have ripple effects throughout an organization. Empowering employees to lead cultural exchanges like history talks or musical performances can open doors and conversations that are otherwise reserved for an outside-of the office setting. Normalizing the exchange of ideas and fostering a space for the discovery of your employee’s experiences is a great place to start.

Aura: Organizations can take a step at celebrating this month by elevating and supporting other Latinx-owned businesses or partners! If you work at a company that hosts a book club, read a book by an up-and-coming Latinx author that month. You can also host a lunch and learn or workshop on empowering our differences or your Latinx peers' professional growth and development at all levels of the organization.

Izzy: Taking the time to recognize each employee and shine a light on their background and unique story is a great way to celebrate. 

Can you share a piece of Hispanic/Latinx history, contribution, or culture that is meaningful to you?

Paula: Literature and written expression is something that is deeply ingrained in Latin American history and traditions. One of the great minds of Spanish Literature is the late Gabriel García Márquez, a fellow Colombian and our country’s first Nobel Prize in Literature. He is known for his “Magic Realism'' and considered one of the most influential writers in the 20th century. Some of his most outstanding works include One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985).

Aura: Music and art are an important part of Hispanic culture that are meaningful to me. I think Hispanic culture has pushed many boundaries in artistic spaces and has redefined and created waves that everyone enjoys today. I personally love to explore art that speaks to Central American pre-Columbian identity and culture. I think pre-Columbian Central American artists who worked on pottery and paintings often capture stories that help newer generations explore our roots and history more.

Izzy: Something that is really common in Chile is that you live at home with your family well into your 20’s or longer. There isn’t a big “move out when you turn 18” culture and I’ve always thought this really depicted how close family units are in Chile. My family and I are very close and I actually live walking distance from my parents. It’s incredible to have such a tight knit family and in general I love how Hispanic cultures really pour into their families.

Name a song that reminds you of your heritage.

Paula: One that always gives me chills is Latinoamerica by Calle 13; they’re a rugged no-nonsense Puerto Rican group who speak to the immigrant story, the sacrifices, and the perseverance of our Hispanic community. 

Aura: Hmm, there are so many! If I had to pick one though, it would be a song by Nicaraguan salsa singer and songwriter Luis Enrique, called Autobiografía. It was a song I grew up hearing at family gatherings and saw my loved ones dancing to. It talks about his journey as an immigrant and moving to the States at the age of 15. Living in the hyphen of not feeling like you’re from one place or another is a common sentiment among many immigrant children. It is beautifully written and always makes you want to dance; it also always reminds me that I carry home with me!

Izzy: There’s obviously a ton of amazing music and artists, but there’s a particular song that really just gets me excited and dancing and that’s La Gozadera by Gente De Zona. It’s only a few years old, but it really has a Latin passion that can put a smile on anyone's face.

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Ellen Zhang

Ellen is the Chief Marketing Officer at Symba. Prior to Symba, Ellen worked in the cybersecurity industry, marketing data loss prevention (DLP) and cyber insurance solutions. She graduated from Boston College with a degree focused on Marketing and Information Systems.

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