As Calendly recognizes and celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, I had the pleasure of connecting with two of my team members who work in different parts of the company but are both a part of our LatinX community, Laurel Torres and Diego Medina. Torres is first generation Mexican American and Medina is first generation Nicaraguan American who was raised in Miami. Two different countries, two different cultures, two different backgrounds of where they come from. But what came to light was a shared joy and excitement about, wait for it…food.
Medina is a Full Stack Developer who's been with Calendly for over five years and still has family in Nicaragua. “My parents and grandparents immigrated to the US during the Nicaraguan Revolution to escape the active bombings occurring in their area. My grandfather, a very successful lawyer back in Nicaragua, lost everything to come here. With no knowledge of English, he sold tupperware to make ends meet to help provide for his family of seven. My mom ended up working two low-paying jobs to help pay her way through college.” For many who are part of the LatinX community, this story is not unique and hardships seem to be a common thread connecting members of this community. Torres and her family story are not immune to hardships and sacrifice in hopes of finding a way to a better life.
Torres’s father migrated from Guadalajara, Mexico to the US when he was 18 years old in search of a brighter future. He then met and married Torres’ mother resulting in Torres being first generation Mexican American. Because of the opportunities her father was able to give Torres, she has found herself as a successful team member part of Calendly’s Customer Support team. Torres has struggled knowing she has “made it” while much of her family remains in Mexico in a life that is far from what hers has become. This is a common sentiment for many within the LatinX community. For her, food is a way to keep her family’s legacy and memories alive. Torres emotionally reflects on a moment with her Tia Xochitl sitting with her at a young age where she taught her to make tamales. “That memory is so meaningful to me because it isn’t just about making tamales. It is knowing that this recipe has been passed down from my people from hundreds of years ago to my Tia and now to me. I take a lot of pride and responsibility in that and I want people to experience that with me.” Medina shares a similar view on food being a bonding experience with friends and family.
“While I have a lot of hobbies and enjoy many things, what I enjoy the most is trying new restaurants. It allows me to bond through food with my Latin community and brings me a sense of pride when I get to share my Nicaraguan culture over a meal. [It is also a way for me to remember and stay connected to my heritage and recognize the sacrifices my family has made.]”
When asked what they want people to know as we recognize and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Torres begins with a deeply personal story. “My family has been through a lot. It's been fraught with hardships that are not unique to my LatinX community. [Being LatinX] means being a part of a family. I have so many family members who aren't blood relatives but who have taken me in and shaped me into who I am today. That togetherness and knowing I have this family community is something I’m so thankful for [and shows what a welcoming culture and people we are].” Medina shares similar sentiments in recognizing the familiar challenges that many in the LatinX community have faced. “I admire my family’s strength and resilience during hard times, which I find is a quality a lot of Latinos share, and I realize how lucky and privileged my life has been thanks to the efforts of my parents and grandparents.”
The late Anothony Bourdain said, "Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go.” This rings true when connecting with Medina and Torres as they share their personal stories about where they come from and sharing their passion for their people and culture through food. As an extension of Torres and Medina, they invite you to share in their LatinX culture the next time you are dining out and invite you to explore some of their favorite places.
Rice N Beans in Wesley Chapel, Florida
Bailey Seafood Kuchifrito in The Bronx, New York
Papi’s Cuban and Caribbean Grill Atlanta, Georgia
Fritanga Cana Brava Miami, FL (Basically any Fritanga)
El Tesoro Atlanta, Georgia