Stories of Hispanic Heritage

WittKieffer has many employees who identify as Hispanic, a significant part of the diverse mix of people who make up our workforce. As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, several of these individuals have been kind enough to share information on their backgrounds and thoughts on what it means to identify as Hispanic.

Michelle Araújo

Executive Search Coordinator, Healthcare

I am of Portuguese ancestry, from the Azores. My mom likes to tell the story of me as a third-grader coming home from the first day of our school’s state standardized testing very confused because I had to fill in a bubble that asked my ethnicity – apparently, I had selected “other” and written in “beige.” To me, that speaks to the discomfort I’ve always felt around pinning down my ethnicity in the narrow options we’re provided. If you ask a bunch of Portuguese people what they identify as, you’re going to get a bunch of different answers. As I’ve gotten older, Hispanic has felt the most true of those little fill-in bubbles, though sometimes I feel snarky and will write in the more specific “Iberian.” It speaks to the history of the country my family is from, captures the sense of culture that I grew up in and also the difference that I felt as a kid from friends who identify as white, latinx, etc. My personal ties to my family’s history are very important to me and I feel very much tied to the country of my forefathers. It’s my heritage and I want to claim and own it proudly.

Angie Velazquez

Executive Search Coordinator, Healthcare

My heritage is Mexican. We have a lot of different traditions but the one I love the most and am the proudest of is the closeness that we have as a family. Family is very important to us and we always support and help each other. We are not an individual, we are a family. When I think about my childhood and even my adult life what I value most is all the memories I have of me and my family. I have also enjoyed learning and being a part of dance groups that support my heritage – Aztec dancing and folklorico. I also love that I know Spanish and am able to communicate with people, understand music and movies of my heritage.

Francine Heymanson

Executive Search Coordinator, Education

I am very proud to have both Spanish and Mexican heritage. Being born in Los Angeles and having lived in Los Angeles for many years reminded me of how influential my heritage is to California. My grandparents and great grandparents both assimilated into a new culture and influenced our community. We grew up speaking English, but eating tamales on Christmas Eve. I am proud to say that I have a multicultural upbringing as well as recognize the challenges.

Diana Rincon

Research Strategy Analyst

I was born and raised in Durango, Mexico. My family and I moved to Chicago in the early 90s when I was 10 years old. It was my parents’ dream to move to California as they both had worked there at some point in their lives and knew they could raise my sisters and me there. However, Chicago ended up being our destiny. 

To me, being of a Hispanic background living in the United States means I am able to share with others my culture and all the great things that come with it such as our language, our food and music but most of all the importance of family and being able to pass that down to our children. It also means I can appreciate other cultures even more because there is so much diversity just within our Hispanic cultures. There are people from many other countries that share the same language but with many different backgrounds. My husband, for example, was born in Colombia and I got to learn about their culture and get to teach our children about both of the countries we are from.

What I’m most proud of is the resilience and the hard work of my people and everything my parents and other Hispanics had to face and continue to face to be able to be in a country that could offer a better future for us and our families. All of that has made me stronger as a person and more appreciative of where I come from and where I am now.

Mercedes Chacón Vance

Senior Partner, Education

I’m primarily of Mexican and Spanish descent and my extended family has been in New Mexico for well over 100 years (from when it was a territory). We’ve been able to research and find out that our ancestors lived in what is now southern New Mexico and into Mexico. So my culture is complex. It is not exactly Mexican, but we do have cultural similarities—we have tamales and pozole and things that are in the Mexican tradition but are very much unique to New Mexico. Many people in the Southwest have the same cultural challenge—people always want to know what your exact heritage is, but it’s not that simple. 

Nonetheless, my heritage makes me feel proud. I’m the youngest of eight kids, and our family was built on being close, working hard, and having strong character. I feel like I have a rich, unique history that many people may not have. And honestly, now that I live in Maine and have children of my own, I know that some of that culture is inevitably being lost. It makes me a little sad, but I know my kids will appreciate their ancestry as they grow.