As we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month (LHM) and the 20th anniversary of the Latino Student Organization (LASO) at Harvard Business School (HBS), we cannot help but feel excited about what’s to come this Fall semester. 2020 has been filled with much laughter and joy as well as anxiety and uncertainty. While the global pandemic has upended our lives at HBS, it has also reinforced the strength and resiliency of the LASO familia.

LASO has been challenged to rethink hosting key events and fostering community in a largely virtual world. Looking ahead, we’re excited to continue to offer our members and prospective students a wide range of events and opportunities to connect and engage with each other.

Fall Semester Highlights:

  • Diversity Career Fair: Formal HBS recruiting events being on October 19th for RCs, but members of the AASU, LASO, and PRIDE clubs get exclusive access to our corporate sponsors - top investment banks, consulting firms, technology companies, and general management companies - more than one week early. This year, we hosted our first ever virtual Diversity Career Fair with 100+ student attendees and 17 corporate sponsors!

  • 2020 Adelante Conference (10/24-10/25): This year's theme is "Emerge," focusing on Latinx resilience and progress. We want to help our community emerge from the current challenges we face -- a global pandemic, inequity, social injustices, and more. Through this theme, we will encourage attendees to explore ways to empower themselves and more broadly, the Latinx community. This year, we’re hosting ~50 speakers across a variety of industries. The conference is a free and virtual event, so we’re excited to expand our reach!

  • LHM Fireside Chat with Stacie de Armas (Nielsen SVP): In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, LASO and Nielsen’s Stacie de Armas – Senior Vice President of Inclusive Insights & Initiatives and a leader within Nielsen’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practice – will discuss key U.S. Latinx demographic trends and the impact of COVID-19 on Latinx businesses, consumer habits, and media consumption.

  • LHM Community MyTakes: In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, LASO members Rodolofo Cabello Diaz and Elina Rodriguez will share their MyTakes with the entire HBS community. Their stories shed light on the Latinx experience in the U.S. and celebrate their U.S. Latinx and Afro-Latinx identities.

In addition to hosting some amazing programming this fall, we also wanted to highlight several of our current LASO members and their personal stories in honor of LHM. These stories are meant to highlight the Latinx experience both on and off campus.

Ale Eguren, Class of 2022

I grew up around the world. I had a fantastic childhood and deeply caring parents. Born from Peruvian & Chilean origins, we lived in New York, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Panama, and Boston before coming to HBS. I wasn't a typical Latinx kid, and it wasn't always easy. I was an outsider wherever I went. But I've come to realize that most people feel like outsiders - feel like they are different. It's a beautiful thing and worth celebrating.

During LHM, we are reminded that the Latinx experience is incredibly diverse. We have different mother tongues. Sometimes we speak the same language as our parents. Some were raised in Latin America, and others were not. We're a mixing pot of different races and ethnicities. Because we have so many cultures, histories, languages, and countries to represent us, we often feel that we are not "Latin" enough. But that is simply not true.

There's a common misconception that the "X" in "Latinx" expresses gender inclusivity. That is partly true, but it's much more. "X" represents an intersection between our stories and all our identities. So that even a child growing up around the world - far from his roots - is still part of the Latinx familia.

Diego Salas, Class of 2022

Coming to the U.S. as a first generation immigrant is difficult. While it is true that this is the land of opportunity and that everything “works”, you can’t help but miss the warmth of your people, the taste of the food, and the shenanigans that happened day in and out in your native land.

Appreciated, valued, and a sense of belonging. These are the principal attributes that come to mind when I think about being Latinx at HBS. It’s all of those feelings I felt at home in Venezuela that had been lost in time but that have resurfaced stronger than ever. I love being a part of this community. Everyone is open minded, willing to share and learn, and willing to push each other to always be the best that we can be.

Rodolfo Cabello Diaz, Class of 2021

It’s August 2009. I’m standing alone in Harvard Yard and the weight of my decision to attend Harvard College finally sinks in. I’m the first person in my family to leave Puerto Rico to attend an Ivy League school. I ask myself: “Do I belong here? Can I actually succeed? Why do I deserve this opportunity?”

Fast forward to August 2019. Ten years have passed and now I’m standing in front of Baker Library. During the past decade I’ve lived in Boston, San Francisco, Chile, Argentina, Taiwan, and the UK. I’ve worked at major global companies like Facebook and Reddit. The self-doubt has faded, but now I feel the full weight of my “golden ticket”. I must responsibly wield the power that comes with the Harvard name to give back to my Latinx community.

I came to HBS to discover myself and arm myself with the courage to merge my passion for music with my professional career. The Latinx community has been an incredible support network - it has helped me navigate the desire to pursue my passions while also feeling the responsibility to support my family financially if another event like Hurricane Maria or COVID-19 were to hit. I hope ten years from now I can return to HBS and as I walk through its halls feel I’ve been able to pursue my passions, support my family, and give back to my Latinx community.

Dorianne Erazo, Class of 2021

I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Puerto Rico. I saw my beloved grandparents every week and had very close bonds and support from my teachers, friends, and family. It was quite the shock at 12 years old to be pulled from that world and move with my mother and three siblings to Florida. The transition was not easy - going from a tiny school with strict rules and routines to a massive public middle school where individualism reigned was a big change, but I learned to lean into the most important constant in my life: my family. My siblings, parents, aunts, and abuelos have been with me through every milestone and continue to be a source of strength.

Thankful for the support that I’ve received, I have made it a point to serve the Latinx communities where I go to school and where I work. Whether tutoring in Gainesville, providing translation services, or being a Big Sister in Houston, I know that no matter how small the contribution, it can really make a difference in someone’s life. On the professional side as an engineer in the energy industry, I am grateful to represent my community as a Latina leader in a sector where there is much room for diversity.

Here at HBS, I deeply value the community that I have found within LASO. I have met such amazing Latinx students and I know they will be lifelong friends and we will continue empowering and supporting each other in the years to come. Looking forward, I reflect on the fact that being a part of the Latinx community has brought a sense of consistency and cohesion to my life. The value of family and the importance of giving back have been guiding principles that will continue to influence my decisions on the personal and professional fronts.

Stivaly Gomez, Class of 2021

I had a wonderful time growing up in Venezuela. We lived a modest but happy life because we had the fortune of always being surrounded by childhood friends and our big family. Massive family gatherings while dancing to 80s salsa was the norm.

As the first members of our family to move outside the US, we were forced to redefine who we considered members of our family. While everything was new and different, we were pleasantly surprised by how welcomed and appreciated we felt when meeting other members of the Latinx community. This community showed us the definition of what it means to be part of the Latinx familia. While we all came from different backgrounds, we were united by our family values, our pursuit of a better life, and our resilience.

After spending over 15 years in the US, I have come to define what Latinx means to me: welcoming other members in our community with open arms, giving back to help others who come after us, and celebrating the uniqueness and warmth of our culture. But most of all, being Latinx to me means being proud of our roots while being excited for who we are becoming.

Arriving at HBS meant reaching new heights to honor the sacrifices my family has gone through. I have been fortunate to find a new family and lifelong friends within LASO that have reminded me and supported me while navigating a new world. Now as one of the LASO Co-Presidents, I have a passion and feel a personal commitment to build a strong community by elevating our voices and lifting each other up to new heights.

Jose Mena, Class of 2021

I grew up in Puerto Rico and it was never my plan to leave the island. During my childhood, I spent my weekends with my family and friends. The feeling of community and family was rooted in my upbringing mainly through the frequent fiestas familiares and through the community built when I started playing sports at a young age. I attended college in Puerto Rico, and until then, leaving was not the plan, but a great opportunity came up and I could not say no.

Starting my career outside Puerto Rico confronted me with what it means to be a Latinx, specifically a minority. It was then when I resorted to the values my family taught me throughout my upbringing – family, community, and caring for others. I was grateful to find my familia in my employer’s Hispanic ERG. Their invaluable support as I navigated a new city and professional career fueled me to pay it forward by supporting Latinx recruiting, professional development, starting mentorship programs, and serving our communities.

For the past 8 years, LHM has been very special for me. I celebrate that we need to continue to embrace our accents, use our voice in the rooms we are fortunate to be in, continue to invest in the development of others, and unite as a community to continue rising together.

Attending Harvard Business School has been a dream come true. This magical place has reinforced that the unique perspectives we bring matter and that we must continue to have the courage to drive change in the organizations and communities we serve. The support network from the Latinx community at HBS has created a strong sense of familia, which has been a big highlight in my #lifeatHBS. I have met lifelong friends and I am excited to be part of their journey and together continue to give back to our Latinx community.

Andrea Pimienta, Class of 2021

My family’s life in the U.S. started in 1987, about four years before I was born, when my parents emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. for my father’s new job as the CEO of a company that offered an affinity discount credit card to Latinx consumers. Within the span of a few years, my father was managing multiple family-owned businesses and as a result, we lived a comfortable lifestyle. However, our lives changed dramatically amid the 2001 recession. My father’s once-prosperous companies failed, and he was left with no choice but to declare bankruptcy. The consequences of the bankruptcy soon became very clear – we lost our home, our cars, and practically any other valuable possession.

Beyond shaping my ability to face trying situations, my upbringing also taught me that Latinx in the U.S. are far from a monolithic population and that my individual perspective can be valuable in understanding and addressing the complex challenges that they face when coming to and trying to “make it” in modern America. As a first-generation Mexican American who grew up in Los Angeles, most people think of me as one of millions whose parents left their home country in hopes of attaining the “American Dream.” And while I understand the tendency to view U.S. Latinx as a singular group with shared immigrant experiences, I learned from my father’s ordeal that each of us is unique.

Driven by this realization and consequent desire to participate in and contribute to the Latinx community, I have worked with and led organizations that support its growing needs. I have taught Ithaca farmworkers how to speak English, helped New York City high school students navigate the college application process, mentored other Hispanic associates at Nielsen, and currently serve as a Co-President of LASO at HBS. Despite the financial hardships I faced at a young age, I have learned to appreciate my life experiences because they encourage me to approach every day with determination, resilience, and a passion for advancing the U.S. Latinx community.

Luis Ramos, Class of 2021

I never celebrated LHM or even knew of its existence until I graduated from college. My relationship with the Latinx identity has been tumultuous to say the least — for many years I wished I was not Latino. However, in early adulthood, I realized the power of my heritage and am sharing my story because I want to empower others to also find strength in their latinidad.

I spent my childhood “whitewashing” my latinidad. In middle school, bullies picked on and started fights with me because I was Latino. Physically and emotionally defending myself was exhausting, and eventually I just wanted to fit in. I stopped speaking Spanish and, when my parents spoke in our native tongue, I would admonish them the same way my peers taunted me: “This is America, Mom. Speak English!” Through this and other similar acts, I completely distanced myself from my heritage. I conducted my own cultural exorcism by age 13.

In 2013, I joined Teach For America and was assigned to teach Spanish in middle school, which disappointed me. I knew the grammar and vocabulary content I would be teaching, but I had no idea how to convincingly teach a culture that I had spent so much of my life trying to negate. Once I got to know my students in South Carolina, I saw a parallel between many of their experiences and my own. Some of my students had experienced direct and malicious racism, and all had been the subject of casual racial contempt – the clerks who trailed them through stores, peers who told them they sounded “too white” when they used proper grammar, and the overarching idolization of white traits. At 13, we all had already internalized society’s subtle vilification of our identities.

To help my students overcome this, I stood in front of the classroom, proud of who I was, so that they could in turn be proud of their own identities. This experience initiated my reclaiming of my latinidad, and it is a journey that I am currently enjoying. Now, as a student at HBS, a place where my 13 year old self could not have imagined, LASO has been a critical part of this journey. I am able to show up as who I am today in this milieu, and I do not need to pretend to be more or less of anything than I actually am to feel a part of this community. The support and camaraderie of LASO has been critical to the reaffirmation of my roots and my desire to share them with those around me.