Holy Week Alfombras
As a child, I visited my mom’s home country, Guatemala, every year. My favorite tradition was celebrating Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Holy Week is a big celebration in Guatemala and many other Latin American countries. My cousins and I would grab bags of colorful sand and go out to create “alfombras” (carpets made from the sand) on the neighborhood streets. I loved that it was such a community-driven event. The neighbors and kids would come together and work on creating these beautiful colorful sand rugs in the streets in preparation for the week’s processions.
Over time, I came to value my multicultural upbringing (while my mom is Guatemalan, my dad is Bulgarian-Brazilian). Growing up with immigrant parents became a big part of my identity and instilled in me a love of learning about other cultures. As a child I loved dancing and imagined I’d grow up to be a flamenco dancer. When I studied abroad in China and Europe in college, I pictured myself working at a multinational company or in international relations– something that would allow me to embrace my love of travel, different cultures and people. Eventually, I fell into HR and Diversity and Inclusion, and I haven’t turned back in 10 years— it’s my proudest achievement.
Being first generation in a corporate environment has granted me many learning moments. My parents raised me to be a hard worker, to keep my head down, not to make waves, speak out of turn or share too much. As a result, I grappled with imposter syndrome, held back my authentic self and silenced my ideas. Over time, I realized I was holding myself back from being able to fully contribute in a corporate setting. Once I started to speak up during meetings and share more about myself, I found it easier to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. I had to learn to embrace and honor my upbringing while also breaking away from what didn’t serve me.
Advice I live by is don’t be one-dimensional. Every day I commit to keep learning and growing. I’m a first gen, Latina, globetrotter (28+ countries and counting!), still a dancer (salsa and the periodic all-out kitchen performance). I always try to say yes to new opportunities and experiences. When deciding where to go to college, I had the choice to go to a smaller, private college near my family or to a bigger university a few hours away. I decided to move far away. I gained so much more from the network I created there, and the international travel I had the opportunity to do.
A hard truth I’ve learned is that you must create and re-create yourself. It’s so important to be able to adapt. I’ve had moments where I thought I’d had mastered something – whether it was work, technology, or that macaron recipe I’ve made several times – just to realize that I still had more to learn.
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