Hispanic Heritage Month — observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 — honors the traditions of several Latin countries where GM Financial does business, including Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. As a company, it’s important for us to recognize the rich legacy of these cultures and those of our employees. In fact, among our team members in the US and International Operations, 19% identify as Hispanic.
Across all cultures, holidays hold different meaning and levels of importance. This is especially true within the variety of backgrounds that make up Hispanic culture. Several Latin countries, including Mexico, Chile, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, all recognize their independence days during this month as well.
The more we learn about a culture, the better we understand the significance of holidays within that culture. There are Hispanic holidays that celebrate everything from honoring war heroes to celebrating religious beliefs, such as Dia de Reyes, Candelaria, and Semana Santa. Some have even gained popularity in the U.S., like Dia de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo.
In September, we shared Melissa’s memories of Festividad de San Antonio de Padua in Mexico. Here are three more stories that our team members shared in the spirit of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
José Ramírez, a Software Development Engineer, told us about Fiesta Mexicana (also known as Mexican Independence Day). It is celebrated on Sept. 16, and is by far his most beloved holiday.
He shared that Mexicans, no matter where they live, celebrate with red, white and green decorations. Even the colors of traditional dishes prepared on this day, like chiles en Nogada (meat-stuffed poblano chiles covered in a walnut cream sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley) honor the colors of the Mexican flag. Other dishes commonly made for this occasion are pozole (hominy-based stew) and enchiladas with mole.
“This annual celebration wouldn’t be complete without mariachi music playing everywhere you go,” José says. “People dressed in traditional costumes put on a spectacular show all day long by dancing along to popular mariachi songs like “Viva Mexico,” “El Son de la Negra” and “Cielito Lindo.”
He depicted the special way the entire country comes together at the end of the day: “As the festivities wind down, the governor stands on a balcony to perform what is called Grito de Independencia with everyone gathered below. It ends with our collective hearts and voices proudly shouting, 'Viva Mexico!'”
Peruvian Independence Day
Peruvian Independence Day is celebrated on July 28. According to Pierre Ramirez, a Software Development Engineer, there are two reasons why this is his favorite Hispanic holiday: music and food. “Especially the anticuchos with Peruvian corn,” he says.
Anticuchos is a popular meat dish from the Andes that is often grilled outside and served in large quantities. Peruvian corn has very large kernels and isn’t as sweet as the corn we have in the United States. These aromatic flavors swiftly take him right to the heart of Peru.
“Also, I don't usually drink soda,” Pierre adds. “But during this time of year, I break that rule to down some Inca Kola.”
Pierre also enjoys the dancing and music. He’s drawn to two Peruvian instruments in particular: “The cajón (a box with a hole in the back that you can sit on and hit on the front for percussion) and quijada (the lower jawbone of a donkey or a horse where the teeth rattle when shaken) produce music that is just so intriguing to me,” he says.
“I particularly like reconnecting with old childhood friends and family members visiting from Peru on this particular day,” says Pierre. “It makes me feel more closely connected to my roots. It reminds me of who I am.”
“As a child, I remember gathering at a family member’s or fellow church member’s house to celebrate this holiday to honor the difficult journey taken in search of shelter, just as Joseph and Mary had,” says Dora Felix, a Senior Project Manager, about her favorite Hispanic holiday, Las Posadas, which means “inn” or “shelter.” She added that traditionally in Mexico, people walk through the streets to reenact the hardships Joseph and Mary faced while seeking refuge.
Las Posadas takes place during the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve. The significance behind the number of days is to represent the time it took Mary and Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as well as the nine months Jesus spent in the womb. Traditionally, friends and family get together to sing songs, pray and enjoy a variety of food and fellowship at a different house for each of the evenings.
“When we arrive at the house of the host for the night, we are greeted warmly, met with no judgment and welcomed in,” says Dora. “We eat tamales, pozole and sometimes menudo (traditional Mexican stew made with red chiles) or other traditional Mexican dishes we’ve grown up with. All the fragrant aromas of the spices from the dishes and the sweet, warm scent of what smells like a bakery swirl around in the house, spreading a feeling of comfort and togetherness.”
Dora’s favorite part of the holiday is putting up her nativity scene for display. “It’s important to note that baby Jesus isn’t included in the scene, since the essence of the festival revolves around the journey before his birth,” she says. Her family has been celebrating Las Posadas for decades, and she hopes that the future generations choose to carry on the tradition as a meaningful part of their Hispanic heritage.
We hope these stories helped you imagine yourself in their shoes, celebrating their rich culture with their families and friends. GM Financial celebrates diversity at every level and feels honored to harbor such an ethnic variety of people who display their heritage with much pride. Once again, happy Hispanic Heritage Month from all of us to you!