I feel blessed for every person that asks for my help. Each and every person I had and have the pleasure of working with touches my heart with their inner strength, power, brilliancy and ultimately their leadership skills. Most of us are hiding our leadership skills since we do not see ourselves as leaders. Unfortunately, I have seen that a lot within the Latino community where many people are not trusting their own abilities to the extent that I trust in them.
Many have wondered why a gringa like me is focusing on serving the global Latino community. I understand your curiosity. After all, a German woman that is as crazy as me about the Latino community and makes Latinos and Latinas feel comfortable in her presence is not too common. So I will give you an idea of how I fell in love with Latin cultures and got involved in serving Latino souls and leaders (future and current) and why my friends call me LA ALEMANA CON ALMA LATINA Y CORAZON MEXICANO.
The first time I came in contact with the Latino culture and people was through the movie “Salsa” with Robby Rosa, Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. I was fascinated by the passion, the music, the dancing, the people and the family focus.
Since my father was from the Czech Republic (Central Europe), yet close to the Polish border, he was raised as a Roman-Catholic. He raised me with the same values Latin people have… with a few European adjustments, of course. Due to that fact, the Latino culture seemed so familiar, safe, yet exotic.
The first Latino I ever met personally was a young guy from Honduras who came for an exchange to my school. I was fascinated by him, not only because he was handsome but also because of his background, which was obviously very different from my own… that was also the first time I came in contact with the Latin custom of hugging and kissing (the cheeks) when saying “hi” and “bye”. In Germany, we are big on shaking hands to say “hi”.
Throughout my years in college, the various foreign students from the USA, Italy, France and Spain added to this change in me. I became more Latin (in the language sense which includes Italians, French, Spaniards and more) with every person I met. As you might know, German people are said to be cold and distant. That is only true to a certain extent, however it is true that we do not tend to hug and kiss strangers or friends as much as Latinos do. It is fun for me to surprise new Latin friends and shock their image of how German women are supposed to be by giving them a hug and being more like a Latina that way.
In 2002, I had the pleasure of coming to the USA, Utah to be exact, to study. It was a fun four months, studying at the Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. There, I met two wonderful Spaniard girls that became friends of mine; as well as my first Mariachi band (and one of the players also became a good friend).
Along with that, I met a man from El Salvador who broadened my horizon on various aspects of Latino cultures, including the Mayas and the bonds between a father and his children.
When I came to Los Angeles, I met a wonderful Mexican man who introduced me to his family. Thanks to this family, I learned a lot about the Mexican culture including the amazing Pozole Verde (veeeeeeeery spicy Mexican dish…delicious and easily eatable for even a German tongue when left one night in the fridge!!!). I was very impressed with the focus on giving to the family and giving from the heart. I also learned about other cultural conditionings; which support, as well as hold, many Latinos from achieving their dreams and grow beyond their own social class. Most Mexican families, for example, just go from their social class in Mexico into the same social class when they move to the USA…only that the standard of living is higher in the USA within that social class.
Since that time, I have met many more Latinos from countries such as Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala and more. I learned valuable lessons from each and every single individual. These lessons changed me and, thus, my life.
Everything that I have learned so far inspired me to start the Latino Leadership Family which is a group of Latinos that come together once a week and grow into strong Latino leaders as well as improve their lives and the lives of those close to them. For more information, go to: www.alatinochoice.com.
Additionally, if you want to participate in the research study about Latino brilliancy and leadership, go to www.latingeniusrevealed.com.
In this column you will learn many of the lessons I have learned as well as will get to know your own background from a different perspective.