I'm proud to work for a company that embraces diversity, culture and different backgrounds, which is why I got involved in Darden's Hispanic Employee Resource Group (ERG). Every year as a part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Darden's Hispanic ERG chooses a country to focus on for the course of the month. This year's focus is on Mexico, which allows me to share more about my culture and to get more involved. During my two years at Darden, I've made many new friends and learned a lot about different cultures through my participation in the Hispanic ERG and by attending various events from other ERGs, so I'm excited to give back and teach my colleagues a little about my heritage.
My parents were part of a wave of Mexicans who came to the Midwest seasonally and worked in the tomato, pepper and cucumber fields that supplied nearby processing facilities. Like many of these workers, my parents eventually settled in Northwest Ohio and found jobs at factories that supported the booming automobile industry in nearby Detroit.
Growing up, my family instilled in me a strong work ethic and always told me, "Why leave for tomorrow what you can do today?" While my childhood friends spent their summers at the pool, my parents sent me to Mexico. They positioned it as a way to spend time with family; however, I think the bigger lesson was to learn to appreciate my culture and how good I had it in the U.S. As a child, during those summers, I recall running errands with friends for elderly neighbors to earn a few pesos. Using a dolly, we would shop at the Mercado (market) and get groceries for our neighbors. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about hard work and helping others through this immersion. I hope that one day I am able to instill this kind of learning in my newborn daughter.
Hispanic Heritage Month is just a reminder to me of how my family celebrates our culture each and every day with food, music and hanging out together. This year, since the Hispanic Heritage Month activities here at Darden focus on Mexico, my whole family was able to get involved. My aunt, who lives in Texas and works in Mexico, and my mother, who now lives in Pennsylvania, were excited and eager to help me obtain authentic materials and decorations for this year's Hispanic Heritage Month opening celebration. My mother even went the distance by helping me make eight different kinds of salsas for a tasting class we are hosting. These salsas have been in my family for many years and I am excited to have the opportunity to share them with my Darden family.
This year's Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations meant so much more to me thanks to my family’s participation. I am so proud to have found a company that embraces my Mexican heritage and allows me to share my story.
For more about Darden Restaurant's participation in Hispanic Heritage Month, see Valerie Insignares' Hispanic Heritage Month kickoff post.