Back in 2016, as I was recovering from a burnout and a concussion in my home in an affluent neighborhood in New Jersey, life offered me a unique opportunity to reflect on the journey I had traveled so far, as an immigrant Latina of humble beginnings whose story began in the dust-filled streets of a small town in rural Argentina, and who had paved her way to an MBA at Dartmouth and a corporate career spanning two decades in 7 countries.
As I lay down in my dark room for endless days and nights, following my doctor’s orders not to look at screens to allow my brain to rest – which was a huge challenge in itself – I asked myself: “How did I end up like this?” and “How can I do it differently next time?”.
It had been a frenetic, adrenaline-filled life of achieving and conquering, and then achieving and conquering some more, without allowing myself the time to stop and take even one minute to feel proud of my accomplishments. As I contemplated that profound question, I knew and felt deep inside in my heart, that my life would never, ever be the same.
As a little girl climbing up trees, eating wild berries, and playing hide-and-seek with my brothers and cousins in the never-ending warm summers in our rural hometown, I could hear a clear, confident voice inside my head, which, I can see now, was a reflection of what my parents would incessantly repeat with enormous pride at my outstanding school performance: “You can achieve anything you dream of. You got this!”
And off I went. I became the first one in my family to move to the capital city of Buenos Aires to obtain not one, but two college degrees with honors and in record time. I started a corporate career early on to pay for my education, an achievement unknown to a family of hardworking parents and grandparents who in some cases were lucky to finish elementary school. In other cases, they had no option other than to start working at the young age of 9 years old.
Big corporate names, large conference rooms crowded with smart, multilingual peers from all continents, and even larger business class plane seats, all felt too big for my humble beginnings. But I just kept walking, working, wondering: “What’s next?”. Always the never-ending “what’s next”, that started to drown that inner voice that progressively got quieter, smaller, and one day seemed to stop whispering “you got this!”.
Time had sped up, swirling faster and faster around me: my wedding, a one-way ticket to the US, an MBA from the prestigious Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, corporate jobs working in multiple countries, two children, annual trips to Argentina to visit family, career promotions, and then…darkness.
The same darkness that surrounded me in my beautiful bedroom as I intended to refrain from screens and other stimuli, was nothing else than a perfect mirror of the deep, hollow, darkness inside. I felt purposeless, with no clear direction in life, and exhausted, just exhausted of always trying so, so hard. I had been in the US for 15 years by then, and never, ever in my life of continued achievements had I felt so powerless and limited. An immigrant. A woman. And an immigrant woman with an accent, for goodness sake! I felt diminished and chained to a system that seemed to demand the best of me, only to leave me empty inside. A system that apparently looked sideways, not acknowledging and appreciating women and minorities, let alone, minority women.
When you touch the dark bottom, you have no choice but to go upwards. My sticky, dark, tear-filled bottom became my platform to jump higher, and this time, wiser. The little girl that run those dust-filled streets in Argentina was still there, hidden, almost forgotten, but patiently awaiting to be heard again. Embracing my forgotten inner essence, I embarked on a mission to tear down the facades I had built, to rewrite the stories I had believed about myself, and to forgive all my failed attempts at changing who I really am in order to fit in, to be accepted, to feel equal.
That soft-spoken yet powerful voice took advantage of the quiet days and nights, and started to whisper, first softly, then louder, increasingly confident: “The way out is to embrace your purpose” and “You will find your purpose in the service to the highest good”.
I wondered what new path would open up, that would allow me to use all my experiences, my victories, my losses, to help and elevate others. As I wondered, the universal energy, Spirit, God, or however you want to call that powerful and wise energy that unites and sustains us all, spoke up, loud and clear, showing me the way. An opportunity to serve the Hispanic community, particularly small business owners, opened up.
It just showed up, almost magically, and surprisingly effortlessly, like everything that is meant to happen in life. Destiny, and perhaps that destiny I had evaded for so long, had finally found me. It had shaken me a little at first, quite forcefully but not beyond what I could handle, until I was awake, ready, thirsty, and almost desperate to surrender and hear.
What happened next is what I can only describe as an absolutely powerful immersion into the reality, dreams and hurdles of the Hispanic community in the US. As I launched an innovative educational program that would help them succeed as business owners, I walked side-to-side with them, celebrating their victories, crying their tears, and listening. Just listening. I listened to their hungry, thirsty inner voices that had for so long been hidden, covered, silenced by the facades they built in an attempt to fit in, to be accepted. Hundreds, thousands, were feeling limited and diminished. Exactly as I had felt. That’s when I knew I could help them.
“Do you know what the Hispanic Paradox is?” I asked hundreds of entrepreneurs as they stared at me from their classroom seats, with eyes wide open and eager to learn how to take their businesses to the next level. Most of them were Latinas. Daughters of immigrants, and mostly, immigrants themselves.
“This is what I call the Hispanic Paradox”, I continued, “Numbers do show our power. We are increasingly educated, we open businesses at the highest rate across population groups, and our purchasing power would make us, US Hispanics, the 8th largest country in the world, if we were our own nation”. “And guess what?”, I continued, “A 30% of the United States will be Hispanic in only 30 years”.
I paused to look at them as those powerful statistics sunk in. I could tell that most of them were grasping the meaning of those impactful numbers for the first time.
“Yet,” I went on, “we are far behind in absolutely all relevant metrics that account for success and wealth creation in this country: business growth, access to capital, access to career promotions, salary and salary increases, representation in corporate leadership and Boards, and so many more”.
I could tell that I had created the perfect momentum to throw the most important question at them. “So…how do we change this? Where do we begin?”.
“Change the government!” some yelled, excitedly. “Change the rules!”, others followed. “Make the system an equitable one”, others ventured with hope-filled voices.
I paused, looked at their flushed faces, and offered: “How about we change ourselves?”. “How about we look into our cultural and personal scripts, our own limiting beliefs, and place our energy into igniting our inner flame?”. “How about we stop fighting who we are, and we use that energy to achieve what we want in life?”.
And that’s how my purpose-filled life began. A life where I invite Hispanics, particularly Latinas, to embrace the notion that change can only start inside each one of us. And I support them through the process of discovering who they are and believing in themselves.
As Hispanics, we have a huge opportunity to turn reality around, by working on our individual selves first. This passion for helping Latinas rediscover their inner wisdom and power, and embrace their worth with confidence, has inspired me to write “Uncolonized Latinas”, as I envision a massive awakening led by those who have been the most ignored by “the system”: my fellow Latinas, as they fully embrace the intersection between business and consciousness.
I have experienced first-hand and have witnessed many, many times the life-changing transformation that is possible: as we understand and decode our cultural and personal scripts, as we embrace our powerful personal and collective stories, as we value our multiculturality, and as we understand how our reality is created by our consciousness, we will self-empower to thrive and manifest an abundant life.
As first- and second-generation Latinas, we surely are already shaping the future of the United States. The more of us that commit to working with our own selves, the faster we will turn our collective reality around, healing ourselves to heal our very diverse Hispanic community, and from healing such a diverse, currently fragmented group, we will become a template to heal a nation where diversity is starting to be truly valued.