Hello, everybody! Jody Ann Johnson here, People Champion and Strategists with the 99th episode of “Coffee with Jody”. Hispanic Heritage Month. Today I want to share with you some thoughts going back down memory lane.
As we celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month, my thoughts go back to when I was growing up here in Miami. I remember the Mariel boat-lift, it happened in a very short window between April 15th and October 31st in 1980. I was 22 years old and oh, that tells you how old I am, well there you go. It’s all good. Anyway, I remember that taking place.
The influx of people who came into Florida during that time was 125,000 Cubans into Miami. Now I remember the before and after, and what I will share with you about that is that the Cubans have actually made Miami into what it is today.
A diverse, inclusive, rich environment where we might go down into little Havana and find people that don’t speak any English. Or we might go down to a restaurant in Coral Gables, for the best Cuban food you can find anywhere and everything in between.
I love Miami and yes, Miami changed after this influx. However, I believe that the influx of Hispanics and Latinos into Miami has made it a much richer environment than it was when I was a little girl, a sleepy little town. So what is it that’s so important about celebrating the Hispanic heritage Month?
Part of what people need is to experience the root of the culture they come from, that’s how they know themselves. Whether they’re African-American, Norwegian or Hispanic and sometimes gringos like me can lump all of that into one batch if you will.
However, people from Nicaragua are very, very different from people from Honduras or people from Cuba or from Spain or from Mexico. And yet there’s a common denominator that Hispanics share; passion, a joy for living, having fun, family, spicy foods, and strong coffee, which I have come to absolutely love. The depth of that diversity is an important component of what makes this country great.
You know, the only natives that were here in North America were the Indians; even myself coming in as a white Anglo American of European descent. I don’t know exactly from where my ancestors came from but we all came from somewhere else and that’s what makes America great; the diversity we have here.
So we celebrate the contributions of Hispanics to our country, to the workforce, which by the is 57% of the workforce in America in 2020 were of Hispanic and Latino descent, and today 18 almost 19% of people in the United States are Hispanic or of Latin descent. This is a significant portion of the people in our workforce and in our country.
When we talk about diversity and inclusion, this is a factor that business leaders must take into account embracing the richness of Hispanic contribution and celebrating that.
Coming back to the Mariel boat-lift, there is a wonderful book written called the Perez family by Christine Bell that came out in 1990, 10 years after the Mariel boat-lift. I think it was probably one of the funniest books I ever read, I’d be reading it alone and laughing out loud. It turned it into a fantastic movie with Marissa Tomi and Angelica Houston about a gentleman who was released from prison in Cuba and comes over on a boat looking for his wife, whose name is Maria Perez.
I mean, it’s just absolutely hilarious if you know how many Perez’s there are in the phone book, but it was a delightful and moving book and movie that I highly encourage you to read, to get a sense of what it was that people went through. When you stop and think about the trials and the hardships that people who have come from other countries into our country, whether they were of Spanish descent, Mexican Cuban, or from anywhere in the Caribbean, Central and South America, it can only move you to compassion.
So let’s celebrate the diversity of the Hispanic contribution to our communities, to our country, and most importantly to our businesses.
With that, if you enjoyed this short little walk down memory lane, please like it, share it, subscribe to my YouTube channel. And if you’d like to find out more about diversity, inclusion, employee engagement, celebrating the contributions of people in the workforce, and really what it is to be a People Champion, I invite you to schedule a discovery call with me on the calendar link below.
I look forward to speaking with you soon. That’s it for today, bye for now.