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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Hector O.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage with Hector Orrala Ochoa

Hispanic Heritage Month 2021

National Hispanic Heritage Month is underway and runs through October 15. It’s that time of year where we get to celebrate the history, culture, contributions, and the importance of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we will hear from a handful of our Velocity team members who volunteered to share their personal stories on topics that will touch upon Hispanic/Latino traditions, values, culture, cuisines, and more.

The first story in our “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month” series comes from Hector Orrala Ochoa, BI & Analytics Manager, who joined Velocity in 2020.

Hi Hector, tell us about yourself. 

I was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. I came to the United States five years ago and was given the opportunity to prove myself. I’m just starting my journey in this amazing country, and all of my family members are living in Mexico. While it has taken me some time to adapt, I’m learning a lot of things about the American culture — and I’m improving my English. I feel very lucky to be in the United States.

Do you have any favorite Hispanic heritage family recipes that you would like to share? 

I have several favorites! Pozole, it’s described as a soup or stew with a lot of seasonings, meats, and toppings that we eat on special occasions such as Mexican Independence Day. Cochinita is another favorite. Cochinita is pork prepared with some sour/spicy ingredients that you eat with tacos, just delicious. Since I’m from Mexico City, one of the things that I love about my city is that you can find food on every corner. For me, tacos are the best! I can list at least ten places where you can find the best tacos.

Do you have any eating habits/rituals that are specific to your culture? If so, please share what they are.

Since my family is Catholic, on some special occasions like Christmas, they like to pray. In addition to that, we like eating together as a family with music, dancing, and enjoying some tequila and cerveza (beer).

What is a Hispanic tradition you wish to pass down that your parents/relatives have passed down to you? 

For me, it’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In Mexican culture, this holiday is about honoring and praying for friends and family who have passed away. We celebrate their memory every year by creating an altar with their favorite foods and things. It’s more than celebrating death and life; it’s a way to honor them and to make sure we never forget the special people we’ve lost.

What is the most important (or most celebrated) holiday of your culture? Can you share more about it?

We have several that we celebrate. In addition to Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Christmas is a special time to celebrate and get together as a family. In my family, we normally have about thirty people who gather with a lot of food, drinks, music, and piñatas! Every year, we celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16) with big parties, fireworks, and food.

Why is Hispanic Heritage Month so important to you?

Until now, I did not know about Hispanic Heritage Month. I’ve been in the United States for five years, and this is the first time I’ve heard about it. However, I do think it is important to celebrate different cultures.

Who are some famous Hispanic/Latino-American musicians, artists, writers, and actors? How have they impacted U.S. culture?

Many Hispanic/Latino people have impacted the United States culture with music, art, cinema, and sports. Famous Hispanics such as Pedro Infante (Mexican actor), Chespirito (Mexican actor), Guillermo del Toro (Mexican film director), Alfonso Cuaron (Mexican film director), and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Mexican film director) are all very successful in the cinema industry and have won awards for their work. Additionally, Frida Kahlo (Mexican painter) is one of the most famous and recognized artists of all time. Sergio Perez (Mexican racing driver) is a championship F1 driver. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Mexican soccer player) is a top goal scorer who has been in many championships and has played for the best team in Europe, and is now a Major League Soccer (MLS) star. They have all made a tremendous impact!

Have you experienced a cultural stereotype, challenge, or bias? Can you share your experience(s)?

I have experienced a few situations; I try not to pay attention to them. For example, at my first job here in the United States, the company I worked for would put me in photos with people of different cultures/races to promote (diversity) and that they “treat everyone equally.” In my opinion, treating employees equally should be deeper than company photos; it should be part of the work culture. At the end of the day, we are all human beings, and you don’t need to “sell” anything. Just treat people with respect.

What advice do you have for Latinos and Hispanics that may have experienced cultural stereotypes, challenges, or biases?

Honestly, I don’t think I can give them advice. I ignore those types of people because all they want is to get attention and make their point. I’ve heard comments in stores and even at my previous job where they made fun of my pronunciation, skin color, or even speaking Spanish with my wife. I know they probably haven’t had the opportunity to get to know other people from other cultures, so their vision of the world is different. Also, since there are very few people that I’ve encountered with this attitude, I just don’t pay it any mind because most people I’ve met are amazing, so it’s not worth the problem.

How can Velocity be more inclusive and support our Hispanic/Latino team members? How can we continue to raise awareness of Hispanic heritage? 

I think it’s great that Velocity encourages communication and collaboration with all cultures to make sure we know more about everyone in the company. In my mind, as long as we are all treated equally and with respect without worrying about the color of someone’s skin or the language they speak, the company environment and communication will continue to be amazing!

Thank you, Hector, for sharing your story with us. We’re incredibly proud of all of our team members. We are dedicated to ensuring that Velocity is a place of inclusiveness and an environment where all of our team members feel comfortable being themselves and supported.

Let’s continue to celebrate, educate and share the rich history and traditions of Hispanic/Latino culture. Here are a few resources to better acquaint yourself with organizations that support the Hispanic/Latino community:

Hispanic Heritage Foundation identifies, inspires, prepares, and connects Latino Leaders in the community, classroom, and workforce.

UnidosUS serves the Hispanic community through research, policy analysis, advocacy efforts, and program work in communities nationwide. They partner with affiliates across the country to serve millions of Latinos in the areas of civic engagement, civil rights and immigration, education, workforce, and the economy, health, and housing.

Council for Latino Workplace Equity fosters workplace equity for Latino talent and seeks inclusion and opportunity for Latino leaders to claim their place at the table.

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