Roberto Rios was the first in his Latino family to “set foot on American soil,” as he described it. Roberto was embarking on a college career at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. The son of a Church of Christ minister, Roberto spent the majority of his 23 years involved in the church in his hometown of Lima, Peru. A move to America away from all his family was not going to change his Hispanic heritage. When Roberto graduated two years later with a degree in computer information systems, he quickly secured a job in computer networking in Arizona. After marrying his bride Jeana, he moved his family back to Lima where their first child was born. “We really wanted our child to be born in Peru,” said Roberto who anticipated returning to the States.
When 25-year-old Lucia Montas moved to the City of Chattanooga, it was the first time in her life to live in a multicultural place where the Hispanic people and the Latino culture were not the majority in the population. As she described, it was the first time that she experienced the diversity, the culture clash and felt that she was living in the United States.
La Paz de Dios is the trusted guide for the Latino community in Chattanooga. Bridging the diverse Latino community to local and regional community resources, La Paz also provides service organizations a network in the Chattanooga community for those seeking to serve Latinos and learn how to better access and gain the trust of that population. Since its formation in 2004, La Paz has sought to identify and address the social and humanitarian needs of the immigrant Latino community, locate and foster relationships with trusted organizations that can serve them, and provide the community with the confidence, capability, and education to become self-sufficient and resourceful. The mission of La Paz is to enable individuals to become more engaged community members to create a healthy, culturally inclusive Chattanooga.
Indian Americans or immigrants born in India have been in the news and the public eye. This includes Bobby Jindal,Governor of Lousiana; the WWF Wrestler ‘Khali’; Vikram Pandit; CEO of Citigroup and Indira Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico. Movie makers Meera Nair and Night Shyamalan have further raised the visibility of this hard working community. Actor Karl Penn who is on Barack Obama’s arts committee has helped Indian Americans become mainstream. Indian students in American colleges are one the largest block of international students in the country. Yet, there is another side to the Indian American story where immigrants do not feel at home in the U.S. and are leaving.
For many career women success means achieving not just professional recognition but also a fulfilling family life and personal happiness. But what is the price is paid by a career women and other women leaders in the diversity of culture they represent? There are many different answers to this question and the diverse cultures are key. My answer comes from the perspective of a Latina working for a Fortune 500 company who also constantly feels the need to challenge cultural differences in leadership styles. At the same time, it’s coming from a person who looks for life work balance, whether that means enjoying time in the kitchen cooking my favorite traditional cuisine, or impressing upon my children the value and importance of their multicultural background.
I raised my hand during kindergarten class in 1979 when I was 5-years old and announced that I’m black. I actually got up on my feet to say it. I am black. And then afterward I sat back down again. I don’t remember what we were supposed to be doing at the time.
In and of itself, this announcement wasn’t all that unusual. The teacher was black, and we were sitting on the carpet of a classroom in the Washington DC area, which meant that plenty of the children around me were also black. What I said wasn’t glaringly out of place, if you can forgive the timing of it. The real problem with what I said—and the reason why the children laughed and I was sent to the principal’s office—was that I am not black.
In my last article for American Diversity Report, “Embrace Diversity, Embrace the Future”, I used the example of Zanzibar and how the people there appeared to deal with diversity by accepting differences of other cultures including religion without co-mingling or requiring others to bend to the will of any one group. However, since my visit there and writing that article, I have discovered that more recently, Muslim youth riding on motorcycles threw acid on the faces and bodies of three American young females who were walking through the streets of Zanzibar on their last evening in the city. The girls were at the end of their mission to help out in the area and were going to celebrate their stay there. They will forever be scarred both emotionally and physically by this experience. This example simply shows how fragile our cultural stability is as mobility of the world’s people increases at a rapid pace and the introduction of new ideas, ways and cultures are seen as a threat to the old established ways.
They came in colorful garb, full of energy and engaged in lively and loud conversations in their native language. During recess they played their rhythmic music with the salsa beat occasionally swirling their hips and did the cha cha cha. They clung to their own, sensing the disdain that the “owners” of this great institution had for them. They were the unwelcomed intruders; they reeked of happiness and gleefully shared their joy with each other. They were the Cubans who came to America by the boatloads and were perceived as different from the earlier arrivals who had “fit in” better and were more like the owners of their new homeland meaning they were more “white”, wealthy, at least educated and of the professional and middle class. These earlier forbearers were more likely to fit into the existing order.
“Anything you can do I can do better” was an unspoken refrain of the interviews I conducted with immigrant women leaders, researching my upcoming book. Their combined brilliance nearly triggered my inferiority complex. How come they did SO MUCH better than me? I’d ask myself (I typically take everything personally).
Beginning in colonial America, the myth of the drunken Indian persisted throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The current, more “enlightened,” explanation for the high incidence of alcoholism among Native Americans, concludes that since they were exposed to alcohol for only the past few hundred years, they were genetically unprepared and, therefore, have little genetic “immunity.” American Native people, therefore, have little tolerance for alcohol, become intoxicated on small amounts, and, consequently, experience high rates of alcoholism. This belief, like many others concerning Native American culture, adds to the stereotype of genetic inferiority that continues to influence white American thinking.