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Guest Blog: What Being Latina Means to Me - 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month

By Debbie Cortez

There is a tremendo orgullo in being a Latina. As Latinos we have faced many struggles which we have had to overcome. Those struggles have allowed us to become strong leaders in our community and continue to shape us in that leadership that now spans all across the nation.

My culture and traditions are deeply rooted and imbedded in who I am and I am proud of how much my heritage has to offer. It has rich food, spectacular dances and a beautiful language which is all deeply rooted in our family history. We have an understanding that family comes first. 

My family who is Puerto Rican and Guatemalan was instrumental in shaping who I am today. My mother was my role model. As her only child she raised me as a single mother and taught me to stand up for myself and to fight for what I believe in. I learned how hard it was to strive to be the best mom and dad (all at the same time) and to protect and guide your children at all costs.

I grew up in a Christian home where I was taught to have faith and to trust God. In addition, I learned the importance of familia. We didn’t have much growing up but the incredible love and support that we had in our family was more than enough.

These were all important qualities that I needed when she suddenly passed away 18 years ago. My life would never be the same.

I was a single mother myself raising a two year old without the guidance of parents or siblings. I felt so sad and alone. It was at that time when I took complete control of my life. I worked full-time and went to school full-time. I eventually obtained my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Business.

Today my beautiful daughter Alexis is a senior in college. It has been an incredibly difficult road but each and every day I aspire to live up to the values that have been instilled in me and to make my family proud.

My pride is reflected in my academic achievements, my professional career, and my life as a mother. I love my heritage and I hope that my story encourages others excel despite their circumstances to be Latinas that are proud of who they are.

Editor’s note: Debbie Cortez is the Director of Latino Affairs for the office of Illinois State Governor Bruce Rauner. She has over 16 years of professional experience leading and managing national/international projects for a Fortune 250 corporation and serves as President of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.

Posted In: Leadership, Representation in Government