Perspective

LMI Voices: National Hispanic-Heritage Month

October 9, 2020

LMI Staff

LMIers shared stories of their heritage from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, and Puerto Rico in observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Read about the ancestors and experiences that inspire them.

Margie Bermudez | Consultant, Financial Advisory

As a Latina and Boricua, I take tremendous pride in representing a culture far greater than myself. My ancestors were farmers, factory workers, and homemakers living simple lives in the Puerto Rican countryside. My parents are jibaros (country folk) from Naranjito, Puerto Rico, where they were raised speaking, reading, and writing in Spanish. Despite having a limited understanding of English, my father joined the U.S. Army at age 18, serving proudly for 22 years. Our family moved every 3-4 years across the country, as well as a stop in Germany.

Living in cities with small Hispanic populations, I seized the chance to educate teachers, classmates, and friends on my culture and traditions. I often volunteered my mother to make arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas) for potluck dinners, which was always a big hit. I felt blessed with opportunity my ancestors never had, motivating me to become the first college graduate in my family. If I ever felt overwhelmed, there was always a little voice in the back of my mind saying, “Si, se puede!” (Yes, I can!)

Famed Puerto Rican composer and songwriter Rafael Hernández Marín conveyed my own passion for Puerto Rico when he wrote in Preciosa,

Yo seré puertoriqueño
Por donde quiera que ande,
Por que lo llevo en la sangre
Por herencia de mis padres.

I will be Puerto Rican
Wherever I go
Because it is in my blood
By inheritance of my parents.

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La Perla Puerto Rico

Oscar Oña | Principal, Capture

My family emigrated from Ecuador when I was two years old. My parents raised me and my brothers to embrace our Ecuadorian heritage and maintain strong ties to our extended family there. They reinforced the importance of speaking Spanish; to this day, I can switch from speaking English with my brothers to Spanish with my parents almost unconsciously. I am a proud American citizen but also appreciate what my parents did to ensure we never forget our culture and language.

My wife and I now pass this inheritance to our three elementary school–age daughters; we hope to impart a sense of self-identification and connection to our heritage as successfully as my parents did. Although it is difficult to visit Ecuador frequently, on our last trip, we traveled to its three main regions: the coast, the highlands (i.e., the Andes Mountains), and the tropical Amazon rainforest. The photo shows the “route of the waterfalls” near a town called Baños (aptly named “baths” due the abundance of natural thermal baths) at the entrance to the jungle.

Our family trips to Latin America and Europe taught our girls about diversity. I believe we must be compassionate and understanding of people who are different than ourselves to build the future that I want for my daughters, and, one day, for their families. The diversity of the United States is what makes this country great, and I hope they embrace the backgrounds of others as much as their own. ¡Mas fuertes juntos! (Stronger together!)

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Ecuador

Rose Polar | Project Manager

I attended an American school in Peru and enjoyed vacations to Disney World, but I never thought I’d emigrate to the United States. That changed when I met my husband, Frank, while visiting a relative in Baltimore, MD. Coming from a military family that moved a lot, I was pleasantly surprised to find a large and well-established Hispanic community in the U.S. unlike any I had experienced outside Peru. That support network eased the transition to my new country. It gave me the comfort and drive to pursue my passions—to study hard, work hard, and help those around me.

More than two decades after coming to the U.S., I pay that support forward as a mentor to youths, many of whom are Hispanic. I instill in them my love for education, the value of hard work, and an appreciation of our heritage. I am proud of my Peruvian roots, to be an American, and to help my community, so that, in the future, those young people can do the same for others.

Lisa Watts | Project Manager

I am inspired by the strength and bravery of my late grandfather, José Correa, in coming to the U.S. in 1944. Educated in public and private schools in Nicaragua, he first worked as a dishwasher at the University of Texas (UT) before being admitted as an engineering student, speaking only Spanish. He graduated with his civil engineering degree in three years while learning English as a second language, and subsequently earned a graduate degree. He then started an engineering firm in Houston with friends, some of whom were also from Nicaragua. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1955. He was very proud of his American citizenship and remained committed to his homeland, returning to Nicaragua periodically to bring optical care to residents with limited access.

Shortly before he passed, I told him how much his sacrifice and hard work meant to me, and it brought me great comfort for him to hear those words. I will be forever grateful to him for the path he paved for our family to have a better life in the U.S.

At LMI, Lisa supports the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program, which performs healthcare missions, like her grandfather’s, for underserved communities.

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Photo of José Correa - Lisa Watt's late grandfather

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