Grassi Team Members Share their Perspectives

Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month is recognized in the U.S. from September 15 to October 15 every year. It is a celebration of the country’s Latinx and Hispanic communities and their many contributions to our nation. In recognition of this important month, Grassi’s DEI Council asked several of our team members to tell us more about their Latinx/Hispanic backgrounds, traditions and cultures.

Our Grassi team members who joined us for this conversation are:

  • Brenda Argueta, Staff Accountant, Grassi Franchise Services (Ronkonkoma Office)
  • Gladys Christian, Administrative Assistant (NYC Office)
  • Dolly Franco, Accounting Services Manager, Grassi Franchise Services (Ronkonkoma Office)
  • Kelsy Hernandez, Audit Associate (Jericho Office)
  • James McIntosh, Partner (Jericho Office)
  • Kristina Ortiz, AP Supervisor/Payroll Administrator (Jericho Office)
  • Erika Rodriguez, Accountant, Grassi Franchise Services (Ronkonkoma Office)
  • Alexandra Teran, Audit Senior (New Jersey Office)

Tell us one thing about Latinx/Hispanic culture, history or influence that you want people to be aware of.

Erika: The countries of Latin America differ substantially from one to another and countries have very different traditions. The Latin American culture is home to many ethnic backgrounds that largely revolve around family values. We often live in large families and enjoy a life that is filled with more people to share our joy with.

James: It is a culture of hardworking and family-oriented people.  I saw this first-hand with my grandparents, who worked hard for everything they had and tried to build a strong future for their kids, two of which were adopted (my aunt and uncle). Also, I would say the food is amazing (arroz con pollo or pernil would be my favorites). Learning some of the dances (salsa, bachata, merengue, etc.) can be a lot of fun – and those who know me know how much I enjoy salsa dancing!

Gladys: I come from a large family. My mother had 14 siblings and my father had 12. For us, the most important things in Hispanic culture are family, religion, holidays and respect for elders.

Kristina: Hispanic Heritage month starts on September 15, which actually coincides with the Independence Day of several Latin American nations that declared their independence from Spain on September 15, 1821.

Dolly: The culture is very family-oriented, and family always comes first. We do everything with great meaning, emphasis and passion.

What aspects of your Latinx/Hispanic background do you feel are the biggest advantages to your current role?

James: Growing up in a Puerto Rican household, we were raised to build close relationships with our whole family.  I have great relationships with my extended family on my Puerto Rican side. We were raised to be selfless and make sure that we do what is best for the family. Those values shaped me to be the person I am today. I take them with me wherever I go and believe it has helped me get to the position I am at today as we operate in a people-oriented business.

Brenda: Being bilingual allows me to better connect with Hispanic clients, especially if their first language is Spanish. It makes the relationship more personal rather than strictly business.

Erika: We were raised to be humble, hardworking and honest people. Humility in the workplace has allowed me to remain open to employee and team member feedback. It has allowed me to actively seek out others, show respect to all, and recognize my limitations when necessary.

Is there a specific leader or historical figure from the Latinx/Hispanic culture who inspires you?

Kristina: Rita Moreno. She is one of the few EGOT performers (received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). From Puerto Rico, she is a singer, dancer and actress (and I would like to say comic because she is hilarious!) who has accomplished so much within her 90 years of living. In her early years, being Latinx/Hispanic in the entertainment industry was not always easy, but she overcame all of that and is a brilliant performer.

Erika: Selena Quintanilla! At the age of 8, I started a fan club which included 10 other family members (cousins).  We had a live band that consisted of pots, spoons and a lead singer. As children, we would imitate her “washing machine” dance moves and pour our hearts out to her song “Bidi, Bidi, Bom, Bom.” At the time, she was a woman in a male-dominated industry who overcame many obstacles. She inspired me to keep grounded, embrace my culture and always believe that the impossible is possible.

Dolly: There are so many I wish I could list! Sylvia Mendez paved the way for desegregation of schools in the US. Her parents sued in the landmark case Mendez vs Westminster in 1947, successfully desegregating all public schools in California. Jorge Ramos was an author and journalist known as the “Walter Cronkite of Latin America.” He was a major advocate of Hispanic rights through his reporting and also increased and influenced literacy among Hispanic-Americans.

Brenda: The current President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, has been one of the biggest game changers when running the country. He has been able to provide and protect the country like no other president in El Salvador. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to learn more about the experiences of Latinx/Hispanic Americans?

Alex: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I myself am also learning different cultures and traditions in the Latinx community. The stories, lessons and advice never disappoint!

Brenda: Hispanic culture is not just one. There are so many cultures to learn from, especially if you plan on speaking the language. A word might mean one thing in one culture but in another it means something completely different! My advice is to be mindful of what language you use with Latinx/Hispanic Americans as everyone is different.

Kelsy: I would tell them to get out there! The knowledge is vast and readily available. I would refer them to museums, historical societies, or even local libraries to read/watch/listen to everyone’s stories. The best advice anyone can give for learning about new cultures is to be open-minded and put on your listening ears.

Kristina: Want to learn more? Go to the Hispanic Society Museum & Library located in Upper Manhattan.

Erika: Join in on a “Latin night” event in your local community. The music and food will allow you to witness the very happy and jolly people we are. While you might be hesitant to host a loud party in the U.S. it would not be a problem in Latin America! In fact, people appreciate that you are having fun and also making some efforts towards sharing your joy with everyone.

James: One of the best things about living in New York is that there are a lot of diverse cultures here and you will have no difficulty finding Hispanic culture in the city. I would recommend finding a bodega, restaurant or Latin club to experience the culture first-hand.

Why is it important to recognize Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month?

Kelsy: Celebrating months like this brings creativity and diversity of thought wherever you go. Understanding what makes all of us as people unique can allow us to find similarities and understand each other better.

James: We live in a very diverse nation, and I believe that Hispanic people helped build the country to what it is today by being hard workers and showing their dedication to family. I believe it is important to remember the positive impact Hispanic people have on this nation – not only on economic growth but also on society because of the family values they instill in a community.

Kristina: Just like any other heritage, it is important to recognize all the achievements and contributions Latinos have made over the decades, as well as the hardships that we have overcome. It’s about coming together as one so we can help each other succeed and accomplish so much more.

Dolly: It is important to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions because they have inspired so many other Latinos to achieve success and learn how to overcome the hardships we all face in life.

Alex: It’s important because it recognizes the contributions that Latinx Americans have made to the U.S. It is also a month to celebrate the many different cultures in the Latinx community.

Erika: It is important to recognize cultural celebrations as a whole. It fosters respect and allows individuals to be open-minded to other cultures and perspectives.

Thank you to Brenda, Gladys, Dolly, Kelsy, James, Kristina, Erika and Alexandra for taking the time to share your perspectives on Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month and giving us all more to reflect on as we recognize the contributions of the Hispanic and Latino community to our country – past, present and future.