My father had two jobs in college, was in a band (saxophone) that played the weekends and was studying to keep a high GPA. My grandfather, an army veteran, started working when he was 10. They each always worked, respected their duty and always looked for more to do when they got home.
In the community, there is a level of gratitude for work that encourages a strong work ethic. Our families admire the full-time work we obtain that have nice offices with benefits! We are taught that we are lucky to have work and we should do everything we can to do a good job to keep the good work. Our strong work ethic is a result of pride and hunger.
Growing over the years, I learned to keep the work ethic without the guilt of fear of losing a job.
Boisterous family gatherings (and community circles) require a bigger voice to be part of the conversation. Seemingly shy young girls learn to interject in broader conversations as they grow. Family gatherings are loud and fun and it only gets rowdier in high school. My high school was 95 percent Mexican American.
Machismo exists. Many deal with machismo at the home, though luckily my family did not have this, but I certainly experienced it in school from elementary through high school. Every now and then my mom would point out a man that acted like he was “God’s gift to women.” It took me years to understand what that meant. In junior high and up, I could see the evolution of these future men. It is how they are and one has to learn to bulldoze through the fluff and attitude to get anything done.
When I have met other forms of intimidation professionally, I shrug them off as I dealt with over the top machismo with my peers since about 12 years old.
Being bilingual as you have to think in both languages and help family members that do not know English. I remember helping my grandmother understand her condition at her doctor’s office. Though he spoke Spanish, she still had trouble understanding what it meant and how it affected her. Information on biology and anatomy were not part of her education. Helping less educated family members with context also gives Latinas an edge.
Latinos tend to be closer to multi generation lifestyles. We spent every weekend with my mother’s parents and her brother growing up. It wasn’t a family of four, it was a party of seven. We were always taught that wealth was defined by our love for our family. Religion also played a big role in our values.
Evolving professionally I picked the good values from this category and again, I dumped the guilt.
5. On the frontier: Being the first to….
A blend of immigrant mentality and being in a new territory, geographical or conceptual, Latinas are most likely to be the first in their family to be achieving something. For some it is going to college, others working in a field outside of your community context. In my case I had a few goals, I wanted to be in New York, I wanted to do something big, I wanted to enjoy the freedoms of independent adulthood and I wanted to wait to have children. The level of courage and bravery to go to a new city alone without your core base of your family understanding you is an undertaking and level of self growth that conditions you for longer term success. It is hard and Latino families send the best love and support. They are always proud of you. They may not fully understand what you are doing or even why you are doing it but they are proud. Being the first gives you grit and your family give you strength and pride.
You are first in your family to achieve something new. It is a big responsibility and we fight tooth and nail to make our goals a reality.