September 15th marks the start of Latinx Heritage Month, a time where we come together to recognize, honor and celebrate this community by acknowledging their contributions to the diverse world around us. We got the chance to speak with five different AEO employees to learn a little bit more about their unique cultures and discuss why celebrating this month is important to them.

Priscilla Gonzalez-Palavicini

Role: Selling Team Lead

Where did you or your family immigrate from? Costa Rica

Do you have a favorite tradition connected to your culture? 

A big part of Costa Rican culture is spending time with family. Every year around Christmas time we get together at my Abuela’s house to make tamales. Someone has their own job scooping the peas, rice, pork, peppers, carrots, pork etc. It’s like an assembly line and we end up making about 200 that we share with friends and family. 

Is there a favorite part of your culture that you love?

I’m proud to be Costa Rican because the culture is so alive! The Costa Rican saying is “pura vida” which literally translates to pure life or full of life. Costa Ricans are for sure people who are easy going and optimistic. I love visiting because everyone says this to each other “Pura vida”,whether to say hello, good bye, or thank you, it’s a nice reminder to be kind to one another.

Alex Rivera

Role: Associate Manager, Digital Production

Where did you or your family immigrate from? San Juan, Puerto Rico

What does Latinx Heritage Month mean to you and why do you think it’s important that it’s celebrated?

For me, Latinx Heritage Month is a time when our culture and traditions are able to be in the spotlight and receive recognition for the contributions we’ve made to the American society and culture. I think that a lot of people don’t realize how much of an impact the Hispanic and Latinx community have in their everyday lives – from food to music to art. It’s important to celebrate this and educate others. I am proud to be a Latina because our culture is so rich and diverse! I feel so much pride and passion for our culture when cooking Puerto Rican food. My love for cooking and all the recipes I’ve learned over the years were passed on to me from multiple generations in our family. One of my favorite things about our culture is that I am constantly learning something new because there are so many incredible traditions and food recipes. Being able to share my culture with others is something that is extremely important to me and makes my heart full!

Is there an aspect of your culture you’re particularly passionate about?

I was introduced to Save A Friend PR by my friend Emily who has done lots of work with them in the past. This is an organization that is on the island where I am from and that works to provide homes for dogs across Puerto Rico. This past June, Emily and I traveled to Luquillo, PR to help volunteer with Save A Friend PR and Paradise Rescue. Prior to our trip we spent time fundraising and collecting donations. We were able to gather items such as cleaning supplies for the shelter, towels and shampoo for bathing dogs, dog food/treats/chews/toys, medication for the dogs, leashes and collars, etc. In addition to the physical items we collected, we were also able to raise $2,000 for the shelter. This money helps the shelter take care of vet bills and airfare to ship the dogs out to their permanent homes.

Prior to moving to Pittsburgh in 1998, my family lived in Puerto Rico for a few years. While we were living there, my mom and dad rescued a stray dog off the streets who was in pretty bad shape. We already had two family dogs, but there was no question about taking in this dog who needed help. My sisters and I named him Guau Guau (prounced wow-wow), which means “Woof Woof” in Spanish. My parents cared for him for about one month and then their vet actually ended up adopting him because he liked him so much. This is an experience and memory that I have carried with me throughout my entire life. I’m always finding ways to continue this work of giving back to animals and others who need help and love.

Rolando Arredondo

Role: Sr. Director Real Estate

Where did you or your family immigrate from? My parents both migrated from a small town in northern Mexico called Zaragoza. My grandfather (on my mom’s side) worked for the railroad and laid tracks, initially living in Texas and working through the South and eventually settling in Chicago. My mom tells stories of working in the cotton fields of the South in order to help support the family when she was young. In fact, my grandmother used to exchange food recipes with plenty of African-Americans who lived in the same neighborhood. My immediate family stayed in Chicago (to this day) while my extended family settled back into Texas. Apparently couldn’t get used to the cold weather.

What does Latino Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you and why do you think it’s important that it’s celebrated?

It’s a reminder of how culturally diverse our country is. It’s a huge reason why I love living in Chicago. Similar to NY, I can experience and engage with all forms of cultures: Irish, Italian, Jewish, African-American, Chinese, Puerto Rican, Polish, Lithuania and the list goes on and on. Each background has a story to tell and a contribution to our country. Secondly, Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month pays tribute to, and celebrates the diverse cultures of Latin America and to honor the extensive contributions made by the Latinx Hispanic American Citizens whose ancestry traces back to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. September is picked since many Latinx American countries gained their independence from Spain that month.

Do you have a notable Latino or Hispanic historical figure that you admire and why?

Roberto Clemente. I grew up in the Chicago Barrio of Little Village (La Villita) and I’m a firm believer in never forgetting where you came from. Not only was Roberto a hall of fame inductee, he was equally recognized for his charitable contributions which ultimately took his life in a plane crash while delivering aid to those in need.

Dalisse Castillo

Role: Sr. Coordinator Fabric R&D Development

Where did you or your family immigrate from? My parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic. My Dad arrived to the US in the mid 70’s and my Mom in the early 80’s. I was born and raised in Astoria Queens, NY.

What does Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you and why do you think it’s important that it’s celebrated?

Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month is important and should be celebrated because it brings awareness to our community. It highlights people that normally wouldn’t be recognized for their achievements, and gives hope to many others as well. This month brings out the beauty of our Latinx culture and makes is accessible to everyone who hasn’t been exposed to it, and can learn from it.

What makes you proud about your culture?

I’m proud to be a Dominican Latina because I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I was taught to speak Spanish first and while I learned English I also taught my mom how to speak English, which is a great part about being bilingual. I grew up always surrounded by things that represented the Dominican Republic and it made me love it even more. My Dad always decorated the apartment with things that reminded him of his country, even if it looked like we lived in a museum at times. My parents made sure I visited the island every summer to know where my family came from. Like many others my parents left their country in hopes of better opportunities in the United States. My siblings and I try hard to honor them & make them proud since they sacrificed so much to give us more than they had growing up.

Sabrina Velasquez

Role: Brand Ambassador, Jersey Shore Premium Outlets

Where did you or your family immigrate from? El Salvador

What does Latino Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you and why do you think it’s important that it’s celebrated?

Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month means all Latinos can be celebrated for what we are, what we believe in and what we stand for as a community. The reason why I think it is important to be celebrated because some people forget the little people exist, why we are here. The people from this nation love our delicious foods, without us there wouldn’t be many traditions that people now follow.

Do you have a notable Latino or Hispanic historical figure that you admire to and why?

Someone that I admire that came from El Salvador is my godfather because he had served in the military in El Salvador. He had fought in the civil war there and to this day he still tells me stories about what happened.

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