Editor’s Note: This article was part of GM Financial’s internal recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month as part of our continued support of diversity, equity and inclusion. We’re sharing it with our customers to provide insight into the voice of one of our employees. We hope it highlights our desire to build genuine connections, not only with our team members but also with our customers.
As a young girl in Chandler, Arizona, Dulce Muñoz was not especially interested in her family heritage.
After she started school and learned to speak English, there was a time when Dulce no longer wanted to speak Spanish. Nor did she want to visit Mexico, where her parents lived before they came to the United States as migrant farmworkers in the early 1980s.
But now, married and with two children of her own, Dulce feels a sense of pride about her roots in Mexico and her history as the first member of her family born in the United States.
Dulce, a Bilingual Team Leader for Customer Experience Operations in Chandler, has been employed by GM Financial for 16 years.
She is sharing her family story in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, observed annually in the U.S. from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The month celebrates the cultures and contributions of citizens whose ancestors came from Central and South America, Spain, the Caribbean and Mexico.
Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15 because Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence on this date. Brazil, Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence in September — on Sept. 7, Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.
Dulce said her family celebrates Mexico’s Independence Day every year. “It’s like our Fourth of July,” she said.
She and her relatives, from the youngest children to grandparents, dress in traditional Mexican clothing, such as red dresses and shirts with colorful flowers. Green, white and red are the prevailing colors, in honor of the Mexican flag. Everyone brings food — tamales, posole, tacos and other traditional Mexican fare — and the family eats potluck-style.
“We spend the day catching up, eating our great food, listening to music and dancing,” Dulce said. “For me, it’s a time to celebrate our culture and our ethnicity.”
Opening a path to U.S. citizenship
Dulce’s parents, Maria and Carlos, came to the U.S. from Hermosillo, the capital of the state of Sonora, about five hours south of Phoenix. They settled in Chandler, where two of their three daughters — including Dulce — were born.
Carlos worked for more than 30 years as a forklift driver and retired in 2019. Maria worked in a factory for 25 years until her job was outsourced to Mexico. They now divide their time between Chandler and Hermosillo and have a home in each city.
Dulce visits her many Hermosillo relatives every three months or so. Her younger sister Michelle has lived there for the past seven years. Dulce’s older sister, Karla, who also works at the GM Financial Chandler Service Center, joined the company one month before Dulce did.
Her parents and Karla, who were born in Mexico, were granted amnesty in 1986, along with almost 3 million others. The federal law opened a path to citizenship for those who had entered the country illegally before 1982. Dulce, her parents and her sisters are all U.S. citizens.
Her son is a senior in high school and her daughter is in first grade. They attend the same schools she attended in Chandler.
“The lunch ladies and three or four of the teachers have been there since my sisters and I went to school, and they know us and our kids,” she said.
One difference between Dulce and her children is that she knew only Spanish when she started school. Her parents still do not speak English, she said. But her mother encouraged her to learn English and told Dulce she would be “worth two” — twice as valuable to an employer — if she were bilingual.
Dulce’s skills have in fact been valuable to GM Financial. She is the only Bilingual Team Leader in Chandler and supervises 11 team members, some of whom are also bilingual. Her expertise is evident when calls from Spanish-speaking customers in the U.S. and Canada are escalated or reviewed.
Unlike her younger self, Dulce now understands the value of speaking Spanish and of preserving her Mexican heritage. Her son does speak Spanish, but her 6-year-old daughter is not interested in learning. Dulce tells her the same thing her own mother said: You’ll be “worth two” if you learn to speak Spanish.
“There was a time when we (Dulce and her sisters) wanted to speak only English,” she said. “Now we see why it’s so important, and I have a greater appreciation for it. Otherwise, our culture gets lost.”
Dulce also has a greater appreciation for the sacrifices her parents made for their family.
“Honestly, I don’t think I saw it as much when I was younger,” Dulce said. “They came to this country where there is a lot of discrimination, and they did not speak a word of English. To walk through the desert to give your family a better life. To not be able to go back to Mexico for years, not being able to see their mom and dad. It makes me so appreciative for what my parents did.”