Pablo Florian, Sofia Muradas, and Diego Parodi on how their experience as immigrants shaped their personal identities and careers.
The first thing to know is that there is no one thing to know. Hispanic heritage is a continental-sized umbrella, an array of identities.
“When we're talking about Hispanic heritage and we're talking about Latin America, it includes such a huge variety of people, cultures, and ways of thinking,” says Pablo Florian, an economist and Director at AlixPartners based in Washington, D.C. Even coming from his country’s capital, he is hesitant to generalize about the country as a whole. “I don't think Buenos Aires is necessarily very representative of the rest of Argentina,” he says, the city being home to scores of distinct immigrant cultures and historically a very European city.
There are over 660 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Hispanic Heritage Month was originally conceived as a way to celebrate the broad diaspora of Americans descended from those regions — 18.5 percent of U.S. citizens as of 2020, a massive consumer segment and source of untapped talent.
“I like the idea of celebrating in general, but it also depends on each of us (all of us) to get to know others’ customs,” says Sofia Muradas, a senior data scientist in AlixPartners’ Dallas office.
Working in the Buenos Aires office, AlixPartners director Diego Parodi was aware of Hispanic Heritage Month as something his U.S. colleagues celebrated, particularly through the work of the Hispanics or Latinxs at AlixPartners (HOLA) employee resource group. The initiative took on a different relevancy, however, after a 2020 transfer to New York City.
“Colombia is very different from Mexico, and Mexico is very different from Argentina, which is different from Peru and Chile,” says Diego of the multifaceted Hispanic or Latinx identity. But distance introduces commonalities: “[In New York], everything is more blurred. It's less your nationality, but more your Latino inheritance or your heritage.”
National boundaries are easily hopped during pickup soccer games with Mexican, Brazilian, and Colombian internationals around New York City, and he has found people from Spanish and Italian-derived cultures to be gregarious and easy to befriend. It also helps that the AlixPartners New York office is large, with solid opportunities to expand his network within AlixPartners and in the wider industry.
“In South America we hug, shake hands, and kiss when saying hi,” says Sofia. “It is a challenge for me to say hi only with a smile!” That said, Sofia long wanted to work on an international team, prompting the move two-and-a-bit months ago from Argentina with her husband, two children, and dog. “Listening to different points of view enriches us as individuals,” she says.
Diego notes the language and cultural barriers that Latinx communities experience in the U.S. and believes adapting to new cities and cultures has prepared him to problem-solve and finesse his communication at work. “We have all those other experiences, which I think bring a different perspective that people may not have, because they haven't been exposed to other problems or other limitations to solving problems.”
“Working in different countries gives you a greater understanding for these societies,” agrees Pablo, who got his Master’s at the London School of Economics. “The way they communicate is very much a reflection of what their society is like.”
The ability to shift perspectives is an asset. The ability to “live the consumer experience firsthand, to step into customers' shoes,” enhances Sofia’s capabilities at work, she says.
Likewise, Pablo has found that living as an adult in places like Germany, Mexico, the UK, Argentina, and the U.S. has increased his sensitivity to cultural differences, which in turn helps at work. “Some individuals and some cultures are more direct than others, but there are always unspoken subtexts and cultural norms that need to be considered.”
Pablo also spent much of his childhood on international postings his father took. As a result, he can feel at home living abroad, and like a foreigner in his home country.
The notion of cultural identity is complicated, he explains. Buenos Aires is in many ways an international city that has historically had strong cultural ties to Europe, which overtly influenced porteño culture. In more recent years, immigration from other Latin American countries has further enriched society in Buenos Aires and encouraged an exploration of non-European influences that have contributed to its identity. “Especially younger generations, I feel, are more open to understanding where they came from and what makes the place where they're at, their culture, unique.”
Hispanic heritage is a story of movement from one place to another, an additive process, and one that continues in both directions, as firms catering to these consumer and talent bases know.
Foreign-born migrants and their children represent around 26 percent of the U.S. population, a number projected to hit 36 percent by 2065. At the same time, the pandemic inspired many foreign nationals to repatriate home to Latin America. Intraregional migration within the Americas is also significant. As this perpetual movement continues, the layers of culture will weave a more complex story.
“My close friends from my MBA were a group of five,” says Diego. Today, “none of us is in Argentina.”
Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, our HOLA ERG (Hispanics or Latinxs of AlixPartners employee resource group) is exploring the topic of immigration and its influence on our people, our communities, and our work.