Welcome to episode 19 of the Life Lnxx podcast. Highlighting the knowledge you didn’t even know you had to be the bad-ass Chica you were born to be.
How y’all doing today? How’s the change in the time affecting you, that fall back? Oh, it’s a little struggle in that beginning. Right? Wake up in dark o’clock, stop working in dark o’clock.
I saw this great meme. I’m sorry, I can’t give credit to who it was, but it’s so apropos. It says Fall has no afternoons, mornings go to 2:00 PM and then it’s nighttime. It’s so true. It makes the work day feel too short as though it wasn’t feeling too short already. But suddenly it’s like three o’clock and you’re ready for jammies because the sun’s going down and you’re “Whoa, I still have three more hours of work?”
We got this, we got this. The holidays are coming. Even if you don’t go home for your family, I hope you’re surrounded by friends. No more remote, be safe. Be happy. Be hugged.
Again, a big thank you and shout out to my Loyal Royals for guiding me back to the styling content. Honestly, this feels so much more genuine to me. I tried to meet other people’s wants and demands, but honestly, if I can’t stay true to myself in doing it, I just have to give it a pass. I really appreciate you putting me back on my true path and keeping me honest to myself.
I totally love you guys. Also, so much gratitude for the great response to the bonus episode, ‘The Pope Saved Me From Jail’. I’m going to continue dropping bonus episodes. I’m calling them ‘The Dirty Deets’, the full personal story that fuels any of the published episodes. I’ll always tell you which one it ties back to. The whole point isn’t just because of my story, but rather giving context to your life in this current day, a gauge for the change we need to improve our lives. You can compare your story to my story and get a feel of whether change is occurring quickly, or it really needs to pick up a bit.
Which Identity, Immigrant or American?
Today I want to share some insight of what it was like for me being raised as an American by an immigrant parent and the choices made along the way to be successful in my true identity.
We can all remember, regardless of heritage, the moments when we felt out of place and had to choose between blending in, by shutting down our true identity or stand up for ourselves, leaving us often alone in our identity and feeling really vulnerable. And this is still occurring. Honestly, It is the trickiest of human conditions.
This episode emphasizes the dichotomy of having a very strong cultural environment inside the house, and then stepping outside to a completely different world. It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time because of constantly having to choose between worlds and struggling with a torn identity
Being an immigrant here is really challenging, even though communities are kind and embracing, there is enough of a nuance in the identity that changes the conversation in one’s head from “will they like me?”, which tends to be the common human want, to” will they accept me?”, which is a whole other threat.
So why should this matter to everyone? Cultural differences are what makes this country profound, multitudes of differing perspectives, knowledge, celebrations, and of course all that amazing cuisine. There’s a long-term benefit to nurturing identity in keeping this diversity, thriving into adulthood and careers. That’s why we want to teach our kids to accept differences. Of course, we want to teach them to care for another human being, but teaching them to accept differences keeps this diversity alive and thriving.
Individuals who’ve lived a multicultural life here develop skills that are really needed for successful leadership in bringing true evolution of thought. Skills that unite different personalities, empathize with variable viewpoints, can negotiate between equal parties; all of these skills come from having to move successfully between cultures their entire lives.
Why My Mother Chose to Immigrate
If you were to call my mom an immigrant, uh, you would have heard an earful. She never viewed herself as an immigrant. Not only because of the hateful societal burden in the fifties, but because she did not think she immigrated. My mother viewed herself as a woman who was very much in love with my father, so she married him. The fact that he was transferred from Peru to New Brunswick, Canada, that was just a career move. That wasn’t immigration.
She was blessed with a very stable and loving upbringing, even though her father had tragically died when she was only two years old. Imagine in 1930, being a single woman pregnant with your third child and two daughters, two and four years old and your husband suddenly dies from walking pneumonia. That was my grandmother, my abuelita.
She didn’t panic or rapidly remarry for security. Instead, she took over the sugar cane ranch that my grandfather had run. And was viewed as LA JEFA, boss lady, by the town she lived in. Boss Lady. Before there was a Boss Lady here, mm, there was a Queen Boss Lady in Peru.
It’s unimaginable. Even now when I think of her circumstances, especially because I walked those shoes. I know how hard it is to raise kids on your own, especially when they are little. There’s no support. It’s almost a disease. Children come from a broken family. You’re a single mother. It’s like having a Scarlet letter around your neck. But there, in Peru, my grandmother was adored, supported, loved and so were her children. They’re just one of the many bad-ass chicas in our DNA.
My mom adored my grandmother, absolutely adored her. She was so worried that something would happen to her mom and they would become orphans that she helped her out with everything. When my mom chose to marry my dad at 26 years old and she was going to leave the country, she was so worried for her mother that she built her a house. She felt that if her mom, and the rest of the kids, had a home, they would be safe in her absence.
I mean, who thinks like that nowadays and who has the capacity at 26 to build their parents a home? I think some professional athletes have done that and that’s amazingly powerful. It’s a beautiful way of giving back.
When I was 15, we went back down to Peru to sell the house. It just shocked me. 26 years old and she had done this. And then she did it again at 52, but she built it for herself this time, her dream home to grow old in. With family and friends and, oh, all the parties again.
Yeah. I missed those life marks. I didn’t build her home when I was 26. My kids didn’t build me a home when they were 26. It’s unfathomable, honestly. Both the action, the capacity, and just the willingness; so much empathy.
First Generation of Immigrant Parent
So I was raised in a completely Peruvian upbringing from the start. My dad married a Hispanic woman for a reason. He was a total dork. He did not align with the American standard of male personality. He didn’t play golf. He didn’t go to country clubs. He wasn’t hanging out in bars. He loved living the Peruvian lifestyle. He thrived in the spontaneity from salsa, dancing in the kitchen to chasing my mom around the house.They were perfect together. Totally in love, powerful and equally so.
My mom thought she could raise her children to be Peruvians here in America and all would be fine. But that was 1956 and she had a tough lesson when my older siblings returned from school one day, all beaten up. I can’t imagine what went through my mom’s thoughts at the time and I wonder if she regretted living here. I wonder if she thought she made a mistake in choosing to raise a family here.
I didn’t really feel the same crush as my brothers in being raised Peruvian because I was born at a slightly different time and definitely an easier location. But my mom refused to teach me Spanish because she feared I would get hurt by the school kids, too. But then she names me Consuelo so it was kind of a giveaway from the start. She was determined to raise me totally American to protect me, without really understanding what that meant.
Most of our friends, who were from other countries, stayed within their friend group, their own cultures, and they didn’t feel divided. They were secure in their own world. And in my generation, if you were going to be raised American, you had to be fully indebted into the culture. You couldn’t be Spanish America. You couldn’t be Asian American. You had to be American, or you were just your culture.
But America at that time was gloriously free-living; from hippies and independence to rock concerts and hitchhiking. None of which aligned with my mom. My friends had posters of Peter Frampton on the wall and they would hang out at the mall together. Me? I was learning needlepoint and being scolded for rolling my knee high socks down to my ankles, exposing too much leg. Not acceptable. So she was telling me I had to be an American, but there was no way she was going to act like an American parent.
You can hear the full-depth, humorous stories that you can feel are running under the surface of this, in the Dirty Deets, the bonus episode coming out Monday, November 29th, called Culture Shock. 15 minutes, no intro, no outro. Just the stories. When you subscribe to the LifeLinks podcast, you’ll get notifications on when these Bonus Episodes drop. And also I’ll give you a heads up on the social media at LifeLinks. There, I can let out all the details. Hmm-hmm hm.
Raised By An Immigrant Parent
There were so many clashes, for me, between the cultures. And I think a lot of it had to do with being female too, because my brothers didn’t have to go through this. In one regard, I was being told to blend in, but then I stuck out because of my mom’s cultural standards. “Go make friends”, she would say, “but not with the boys and I have to chaperone you ”. That didn’t go over well. The funny thing is she didn’t even see that that was an issue. In her opinion, this is exactly what every parent should be doing. It wasn’t a Peruvian thing. It was a parenting thing. She was so silly.
Thankfully, where I grew up, in what is now Silicon Valley, there were a lot of families from other countries. The valley back then was all agriculture, teaming with orchards of apricots and apples and cherries. I literally knew when school was going to end because the cherry stands would start popping up. The Italians were masters of the valley in agriculture. Then there was NASA and Moffett field attracting scientists from Germany. Stanford was attracting academia from Eastern Europe and Africa. As much as immigrant families were common in the area, in our neighborhood, being an immigrant was not. Being one of many foreigners in our neighborhood made it feel like you were blending in, but then outside the neighborhood, you were a foreigner who stuck out.
It felt like I always had to choose between aligning with my friends at the risk of being grounded or alienated by my mom or aligning with my mom at the risk of being ostracized. Nobody likes that feeling as a young person. All the while, trying to figure out what I was willing to give up in order to be the true me. It’s a really difficult emotional development through your teenage years.
There’s too many people to please. And ultimately, if you don’t please yourself, you end up missing out on a lot, both of your heritage or the American culture.
I wonder what it’s like for young people today in this situation, especially with all that access to technology. Where are you hitting the wall in this culture shock, in the culture clash, even within your own family?
I’ve spoken with first-generation people in their thirties, and they seem to have more agency over their own lives. Although they feel the pull from their immigrant parents to align with their heritage, they are still given the freedom to make their own choices in life. This is so liberating and exciting to be free from the limitations of the past.
I wonder though, without the cultural limitations, the cultural guidelines, do you choose to be more aligned with the current culture here and what is being left behind? What are you losing in the knowledge of your heritage? Will you regret it later as you get older and perhaps miss the opportunity if your older family members are no longer with you? How do you recapture all that?
Working With Cultural Influence
When it came to my professional life, the cultural differences were expounded both positively and negatively, but mostly positively. There’s a lot to be gained from living a multicultural life. My name remained an issue, as well as the way I spoke. People would ask where I was from because they heard an accent. It never occurred to me that I had one or that my mother had one. But my aunt, oh yeah, that was an accent.
I think the funniest aspect of my Hispanic identity that gets called out all the time is my writing style. In Spanish, expressions are often in a passive voice, emphasizing the object, rather than the subject. For some reason, even though I’m not translating, my English tends to be spoken and written in a passive voice, too.
I really think it’s from listening to my mother. I understood Spanish, way before I could speak it. The only way I could learn it was to listen to her and my aunt talking because every now and then I’d hear my name. “Consuelito” dat… dat… dat… “Consuelito”. I wanted to know what they were saying so I took the time to absorb and learn it on my own. My professors at USC would always call me out for using improper grammar. I was dinged for writing in a passive voice, even though English has one, but I guess you’re not supposed to use it.
My personality definitely calls me out though. I want to make friends with everybody. I’ll go up to total strangers, even on the street, just to start talking to them because I’m kind of curious. I want to know what people are like.
And also, my chattiness. Oh my goodness. My chattiness definitely calls it out. I think I can soundly say that Latinas…. Okay. We tend to be chatty and we want to make a lot of friends and we want to have a good time. What’s wrong with that?
Companies have developed employee groups at work just to encourage that same camaraderie in diverse populations. And it’s a good thing. It’s really nice to be surrounded by the cultures you’re more accustomed to, especially that it’s equally difficult where you live to find that same sense of camaraderie.
But I wonder, to what extent are companies embracing differences into their brand, rather than just celebrating them or supporting them? Is diverse thinking being added to a company? Or, just physical representation that still has to align with a singular mindset of the past?
Good question. Right?
Benefits of an Immigrant Heritage
One of the big benefits of my immigrant heritage is my ability to relate to a larger population of professionals. This is really rewarding in the structural engineering industry that has so many specialties working in one project and most tend to be Latino owned. My heritage does more than just add an additional language for communication. It adds a common personality.
A lot of times I can walk onto a job site for inspection and just feel the rigidness from the male crews. I’m already being judged for being a woman. And most likely the willingness to cooperate is declining, even before I open my mouth. My request for changes, because there’s been an error, would often be challenged or dismissed until I shift into my Latina personality and begin talking about a common lifestyle between us.
Suddenly the stern looks evaporate and big smiles appear, and the contractors feel less threatened. They feel respected. And with that, they have a lot of pride in their work and suddenly they want to show me everything they’ve done and explain how they went above and beyond what I wanted. Or, they figured something out without needing to ask me. It really creates this relationship that we would not have had otherwise. It just doesn’t happen without a diverse cultural understanding.
Additionally, I developed the ability to communicate across differences from growing up among different cultures. Often my way of thinking and expressing myself is met maybe with a quizzical look. But rather than just repeating myself in the same manner, hoping the person would finally understand, like sometimes people just speak louder and louder thinking you’re going to understand them, I tried expressing myself from the other side, and that works.
But still, rather than opt for one culture or another, I developed a method of translating my thoughts into a common visual, almost a sign language for ideas. If we both want the same end result, but are coming at it from two different viewpoints, the visual helps soothe the differences and it brings unity. It’s less about one side over the other and more about the end result. If I can create that picture, then it no longer relies on viewpoints to describe it. Instead, we get a common description of what we want in the end.
This also goes a long way in my industry where the topic is really complex and it’s difficult for people to understand. But, if I describe the process in a common visual, a simple comparison, then people really understand quickly what I’m talking about.
If I were to try to explain it in engineering terms, they would hear it as a foreign language. And the same thing happens when you try to explain something in a foreign mindset. People may not understand, but using this visual translation brings people together in unity, commonality.
Best of Both Worlds
Still, I am totally Peruvian in my DNA. My life link was definitely in my mom’s lineage and I am so grateful to her. I miss her terribly. I really do. I didn’t want to blend in, to become Connie in order to make others comfortable. The Peruvian lifestyle resonates with me, even now without my mom, and I battle to create it for myself, especially outside the home.
I really do have the best of both worlds. My mother was completely right. She saw the power of acknowledging the culture we lived in, even if she set it on her own terms. She was brilliant for encouraging me to love and participate in American culture, to seek out a high earning profession, to travel internationally and to live both cultures fully. Thankfully, she wasn’t ready to completely let go of her heritage, but she couldn’t deny the opportunities that were here for us and the benefits of thriving in two different cultures.
What I’ve learned over my lifetime is that it’s less about being accepted for my cultural differences and more about being asked to include them into what would otherwise be the same old thing. People wanting to add my heritage, add my cultural differences into something standard to make it completely different. That’s what’s important to me now. I’m not here to do the work of a white man as a Latina. My Hispanic DNA and mindset brings an entirely different approach and with that an entirely different solution.
Oftentimes, my quick thinking will create solutions that are way outside the known. People will ask me how I came up with it and honestly, I don’t know. I kind of get set back. Doesn’t everyone think this way? Apparently not.
I think it’s a trait that developed from having to scramble to maintain my identity between the cultures and between myself. If some of my natural traits didn’t resonate in a situation, then I had to shift to present them in a different manner in order to be understood and accepted. I didn’t want to let go of my identity just because it was different from what other people were expecting.
I really believe that’s how I developed this skill. And that’s what I want to encourage you to do.. You’re going to do all the hard work in your early years of living, but then you see the benefit of that work later on. That’s another reason to encourage maintaining your identity and your diversity from a very young age. Don’t blend in. There’s so much benefit to carrying that forward, to apply to a larger picture in your adulthood.
Diversity at Work
This is what diversity truly looks like when applied to careers. Bringing diversity into the workplace goes beyond equal representation. It’s not just giving a trophy to everyone for participating. People who have successfully lived in a multicultural lifestyle while still maintaining their own true identity, bring immense skill level to leadership.
Many skills are learned in a lifetime of moving within different cultures and successfully engaging with different mindsets and beliefs. These skills develop into a second nature that excels beyond just one culture or the other. An individual becomes an expansive conglomeration of diversity, all while having a unique singular identity.
For instance, creating relationships with different cultural personalities brings unity within a company. Negotiating between cultures enables the vision of both sides of a situation in order to select the best path to take and understanding and empathizing with different cultures expands the reach of a brand.
This occurs naturally. It doesn’t need to be taught or scripted for a company to follow. Diverse leadership actually makes for a more successful company because the individual already has the thought process for engaging with a large population of humanity.
For all these reasons, and more, being raised in an immigrant family is fabulous. The benefits far exceed the initial struggle of trying to maneuver through the differences. Growing up, it is difficult, especially at that age, and society can be harsh and act badly because it feels threatened.
Coming from immigrant families, we have the capacity to bridge the division, just like we bridge our cultural identities. That’s what makes us unique and valuable in society and in our careers.
It’s not our differences that makes us unique. It’s our ability to bridge the differences.
Remember to check out our website of the past newsletters that are now up as posts. Plus, you can still sign up for our Turkey day newsletter going out later today. It’s going to have all those yummy recipes that my mother cooked for Thanksgiving. Truly Americana style. Spoiler alert, jello salad. Have you ever eaten jello salad? I’ll let you know right now it has cottage cheese in it.
Yes. Go sign up. You’re going to want to know how to do this. That was definitely a cultural identity she could have avoided. We would have been fine with Paella and empanadas.
Step into your truth, ladies. Ciao.