Editor’s Note: From September 15 to October 15, the U.S. celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. The month recognizes the unique and myriad contributions of Latinx people even if it doesn’t take into account the challenges within the vast community regarding the origins and use of the word Hispanic. First declared National Hispanic Week by President Lyndon Johnson, the mid-month date coincides with the national independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Similarly, Mexico celebrates its independence day on the 16th, Chile on the 18th, and Belize on the 21st.
At RPG, our core cultural building blocks are authenticity, belonging and compassion. Without a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, these are empty words. In 2020, many people experienced an awakening and began to recognize that conversations about race and social justice are critically important conversations for us to have everywhere. The Diversity Movement reminds us, “when companies downplay demographic differences, they actually increase underrepresented employees’ perception of bias from white colleagues and reduce engagement at work.”
As part of recognizing and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Racer Diego Rivera discusses what the month of observation means to him.
What motivates you?
I like self-improvement. No, I’m not here to sell you a course on pushups and meditation, I just think there’s no better feeling than watching yourself improve on the things that make you passionate. Whether at your job, a sport you picked up to play on the weekends or as a person, the goal should always be to get better.
Who has served as an inspiration in your life?
My grandfather, who I consider to be the embodiment of hard work and resiliency.
Despite coming from nothing, he became a self-made businessman who faced both success and serious loss. What’s truly admirable is his relentless determination. This is a man who went to college in his late 40s because his kids dared him to — and he graduated twice before they finished one degree. I’m fascinated by all he’s accomplished and all he continues to do. Even though I’m decades younger than him, I wish I had a fraction of his energy to get done in one day what he manages to do.
Can you share a story that taught you a valuable life lesson?
My story can be summed up as “the small things add up, don’t take them for granted.” After high school, I couldn’t study abroad as I always hoped, and with no clear plans for my future I took a trip to New York.
Halfway through my trip, I traveled reluctantly to New Orleans for family friend’s wedding.
Turned out, the groom’s sister needed some help with her candle shop in NYC, and I told her I’d be happy to lend a hand. I worked with her for less than a month and went back to Honduras to begin university, thinking it was just a productive trip. Three months later, I got a call from her offering me a scholarship abroad. Someone I didn’t know a month earlier, who I met at a wedding I didn’t want to go to, completely changed my life.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
I moved to the United States at 18 and, as a Honduran native, Hispanic Heritage Month is a new concept to me. I do appreciate its timing (starting on my country’s Independence Day) and what it represents, but it doesn’t hold much weight in my heart. As I finish writing this blog, my younger brother is getting ready for our September 15 parade, and while there’s some beauty attached to the horses and high school bands marching down the streets of my hometown, I’m not much of a fan of that either.
When it comes to celebrating my heritage, I prefer the little things. Things like keeping the Honduran flag that I bought when I attended college up in my room. Or bringing multiple bags of coffee in my luggage when I come back from a trip. Wearing my national team’s jersey on a random day, and supporting all of their games even if we always lose. Also, making sure I’m still missing some Esses while speaking Spanish so I know I’m not unconsciously picking up another accent — all of these things keep me grounded.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in representation and am grateful that there’s a specific month dedicated to celebrating my people. However, with the ways I choose to embrace my heritage, I don’t really need a designated month to feel proud about where I’m from, and I don’t think anyone should. I come from a flawed country with lots of issues. But I love that it’s my home country — and that’s a year-round thing.