With LatinX Heritage Month amongst us, I find myself caught between celebrating my achievements and grappling with some uncomfortable memories and ongoing challenges I've faced as a LatinX professional. Although I want to spend this month celebrating, and there is so much to celebrate, I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to first acknowledge the difficult feelings LatinX Heritage Month has reminded me of. Memories like these float in my head, reminding me of how difficult it has been to exist as my whole self in the workplace.
When I first started my career, I felt like I wasn't fully accepted for who I am – a bilingual, proud Mexican-American. It's strange how often I've been expected to play the role of a translator for my employers, all without getting any extra perks for it. And here's the kicker: these same employers can be quick to hush us when we speak our mother tongue at work. I’ll never forget being told to speak English in the break room because our colleagues couldn't understand us. It was ironic to be needed as a translator in one instance and reprimanded for speaking Spanish the next.
Another thing that really hits home is the feeling of being alone. It's not unusual to find myself as the only person in the room who looks like me, and that can make me feel pretty out of place.
One particularly cringe-worthy memory is from a company Halloween potluck at one of my former jobs. I was so excited for the event, but it quickly became awkward when a colleague started talking to me about their distaste for spicy food, specifically at Chipotle of all places. What's ironic is that I've never been to Chipotle in my life because I was raised on authentic Mexican cuisine. So, that whole conversation felt weird and made me uncomfortable, to say the least.
These are just a few of many examples of when I was made to feel like the other in my workplace. It took me a while to feel comfortable in my own identity at work. I am lucky enough to work at a place like Jopwell, where I am surrounded by not only a diverse staff but a workplace culture that celebrates differences.
LatinX Heritage Month is a time to honor our culture and achievements, but it's also a reminder of the hurdles we face in the workplace. From language barriers to feeling like an outsider, LatinX professionals deal with a lot in the day to day.
By acknowledging these challenges and actively working towards more inclusive workplaces, we can ensure that LatinX professionals don't have to carry the weight of discrimination and exclusion.
To all the LatinX professionals out there, you are not alone this month or ever. My hope for myself and every one of you is we never feel like we have to downplay our identity to make others comfortable. Our representation matters, not just this month but all year round. Happy LatinX Heritage Month, may it be a time of celebration and reflection.