September 15-October 15th is Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month! The month celebrates the cultures, histories, and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx people in the U.S. To learn a bit more about the reasons we celebrate the month, check out this blog post by AILA member, Ruben Luis Reyes.
The celebration begins mid-month to honor the independence of 5 different Hispanic countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrate their Independence Day a few days after the start date on Sept. 18th!
This month is an important reminder of our country’s immigrant roots and values. We interviewed our very own associate attorney, Elena Diaz, who shared her cultural background and what this month means to her. Read along to learn more about Elena.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina. My mother’s family is originally from Spain and my dad’s family is from Paraguay. Technically, I am mixed, but in Argentina, we don’t consider people mixed race. If you are born in Argentina, you are 100% Argentinian. We like to be a homogeneous society.
Growing up at home, I did not embrace my dad’s Paraguayan side because I grew up with my mom’s family. I do look more Latina than Spanish, though. When I came to the U.S., I had to choose how to label myself. I feel Hispanic because I grew up with a lot of Spaniard culture at home, (food and music), but honestly, I do not mind how people label me. They can call me Spanish, Latina, or Latinx. I know who I am. Labels are just a way to categorize people. I speak Spanish. I am from Buenos Aires. I am a Porteña, (which means born near the Buenos Aires Port). That is my heritage. At the same time, I am an immigrant. I am a Brown girl. A minority. A girl with a South American accent.
What do you most love about Hispanic/Latinx culture?
What I love the most is our respect for family, taking care of our elders, our community mindset and how we help each other. We are taught from an early age to always be there for our siblings, to take care of our parents when they are old, to love our siblings because one day our parents will not be here. We are taught to protect each other and share what we have. I think that is the core of our culture. I think that is truly beautiful.
What does it mean to you to be Hispanic/Latinx?
This is a very deep question! I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it. To be Hispanic to me means I have roots in Spain and my first language is Castellano (Castilian/ Spanish from Spain).
To be Hispanic back home, means I am a White person. To be Hispanic in the U.S., means I am Brown. I think what it means to be Hispanic changes depending on where we are. At the heart of it, it means that my first language is Spanish, that I am a Porteña, and that I am Argentinian. I think the way we embrace our culture is how we live, our idiosyncrasy and how we see the world and react to it. It is in our unconscious. We just ARE.
How will you be celebrating your heritage this month?
This is such an interesting question. I must be honest, I don’t celebrate it. It is not part of my calendar, per se. But if there are any fun cultural events, I would definitely attend. I feel we celebrate our heritage every day. You celebrate your heritage, your sexual orientation, religion, etc. by just being you, being authentic, and trying to be the best person you can be by keeping in mind the values you were taught at home.
Elena Diaz is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She attended the University of California at Davis where she majored in Human Development and Sociology and then the University of New Hampshire Law School where she received her J.D. Elena’s own experience as an immigrant and speaking English as her second language inspired her to attend law school with the goal of serving the immigrant community. Outside of the law, Elena has a background in the entertainment industry as a commercial actor. Her passion for the industry inspired her to start working with clients seeking extraordinary 0-1 visas. In her free time, Elena enjoys swimming, going to the movies, and spending time with her dog, Balthazar. Elena is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.