Celebrating Diversity: The Power of Individuals

Celebrating Diversity: The Power of Individuals

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History of Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration spanning the weeks between September 15 and October 15 to recognize the cultural richness and contributions of people with Latinx and Hispanic heritage in the United States. Hispanic Heritage Month was founded during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and was originally a weeklong celebration. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the week was extended to a full month, going into October to include the independence days of many Spanish-speaking Latin American countries including Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, and others. Today we celebrate the diversity of Latinx people, their culture, and their impact in the United States. 

To celebrate, we wanted to highlight some Speakeasy staff and their cultural heritage. Their unique cultural backgrounds inform their work and their ability to be successful communicators.  

Jorge Barría Ponce, Faculty  

Jorge is originally from Panamá but began his journey in the United States through his undergraduate education at the University of Louisville. Jorge is a world traveler, teaching in many places globally, but he’s currently based in our Atlanta office as an instructor.

How does your Hispanic heritage inform your ability to communicate and interact with clients? 

“I’ll start with a line I learned 20+ years ago, while preparing for my MBA dissertation in Diversity and Multiculturalism: “If we were all the same in this world, it would be a very boring place”. Being Hispanic/Latino has allowed me to help clients realize, and learn, that there is more than one way to communicate, persuade and achieve results. Furthermore, I have taken it upon myself the challenging mission to open, hopefully even create, doors for future Hispanic/Latinos. I’m able to teach and demonstrate that, regardless of an audience’s ethnic, social, racial, professional or industry background, a speaker who looks, and sounds different from them, is able to effectively get a point across, as well as persuade and move them into action. Also, having myself a foreign accent (…which is a major concern for many Hispanics/Latinos…actually, anyone for whom English is not their native language), has allowed me to gain credibility as, regardless of the accent, one is able to effectively, and “clearly” communicate. Speakeasy is a global company, and our classes are taught in English all over the world, so many of our clients have a foreign accent. Having a foreign accent is not a ‘bad’ thing (…actually, most people like foreign accents, as long as the accent does not get in the way of the communication). A foreign accent could actually provide a ‘differential’ advantage, as people will tend to remember us, because we look, and sound different from the majority.”

Do you have any advice for Hispanic and Latinx professionals on being authentic in the workplace? 

“’Authenticity’ is still a challenge for me, as the majority of the people with whom I interact, and  communicate, are not only different from me, but actually share themselves a common culture,  background and language, which is completely different from mine. Furthermore, the reality is  that many people, when they experience or are exposed to something ‘different’, they don’t  necessarily perceive it as positive. What has, and continues making it easier is that, as proud as I  am of my Hispanic/Latino heritage, it’s not the ‘only’ aspect of myself, which defines me.  Meaning: I am a human being, who happens to be Hispanic/Latino, I am a human being, who  happens to be a Facilitator, I am a human being who happens to like…actually LOVE…gummy  bears! This has helped me develop the confidence to feel, and ‘define’ myself as more whole  and complete, as well as to having the ability to adapt to different backgrounds and  personalities, just from the mere fact that from my point of reference, I experience it every day. Bottom line: Don’t limit yourself by defining yourself, by only one aspect of you…”The whole   is greater than the sum of its parts”…Gestalt psychology.” 

Jorge Barria participating in a University of Louisville International Student Association event, where the Fulbright Association sponsored “Tropicalízate.” Jorge performed a folkloric dance, proudly representing his home-country of “Panamá”.
Christian Ortega, Consultant 

Christian Ortega is a consultant in our New York office. He’s native to the area, having lived and worked in New York for years. Christian is of Honduran heritage. The Central American Country’s Independence Day is September 15, which begins Hispanic Heritage Month.  

How does your Hispanic heritage inform your ability to communicate and interact with clients?  

“It allows me to create personal stories that exemplify that what we do at Speakeasy is special. Understanding this, I’ve been able to apply my learnings when I communicate in Spanish.” 

Do you have any advice for Hispanic and Latinx professionals on being authentic in the workplace? 

“Embrace your culture and never be afraid to be who you truly are. It’s what makes you  unique  and enables you to standout more. This uniqueness amplifies your voice anytime you are called on to speak, so, make what you say count!” 

Christian Ortega in Spain, pointing to the name of the plaza, “Plaza de Honduras.” Christian’s family originates from Honduras.
Your Individuality is Power 

At Speakeasy, we believe in people being their most authentic self and embracing more of who they are. No matter who you are or where you originate, you don’t need to change yourself to achieve success in your personal life or career. We believe that by becoming more of who you are—leaning into your identity—you’ll be able to reach new levels in your personal and professional development.  Cultural heritage is one of many aspects of a person’s identity, making them the unique person that they are. Cultural differences should be celebrated and respected, because diversity in culture and background allows us to create more equitable and inclusive spaces for all.