We’re celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month and, as part of this, Sandra Alvarado is sharing her story of growing up in a Latino family in Boston and how her childhood experiences made her into a passionate advocate for her community.
I’m Puerto Rican, a U.S. citizen by birth. I was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Boston. I grew up in a typical Latino family. We were a close-knit group and the most important social unit to each other. We were taught to always respect our elders, have strong faith and value education and hard work.
Growing up I thought I was just a typical kid, because I was surrounded by a large family; grandparents, aunts and cousins, who looked and sounded like me. Outside of home things weren’t the same. Boston was very different then. The city was segregated and we were constantly reminded that we were different and that we didn’t belong.
I think every generation is confronted with some type of major sociopolitical challenge and, for me, I believe it was the desegregation of schools in Boston. I was very little, but I remember the riots and feeling scared at home and in school. That experience set off a cultural crisis within me that I struggled with for years. Eventually, and after graduating college, those childhood experiences informed and fueled my passion for advocacy and community-building work – and, in that process, I resolved to be part of the solution, not the problem.
…I resolved to be part of the solution, not the problem.
I’ve worked with hundreds of Hispanic families across the city of Boston and in some cities in Florida, teaching them about how to advocate for their children’s education. I’ve also worked and trained small, minority-owned businesses both in Boston and in Florida, on effective business practices and a whole host of other business-related solutions.
I brought this business experience with me to my role as a Senior Manager in the U.S. Grid Modernization Team. But I also brought my experience as an advocate for my community, as I’m also jurisdictional president and program strategist for the Hispanic Professional Association (HPA).
Our members are from across the company, from different regions, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Our programs are inclusive, a great vehicle for participation and a great way to give back to the communities we serve. One example of this is our partnership with the Society of Hispanic Engineer Professionals (SHPE). With the help of SHPE, we’re encouraging Hispanic middle-, high-school and college students to pursue STEM education and careers.
My Hispanic heritage has made me who I am today, right down to the way I talk. Spanish was my first language and I only spoke English in school. Making that language shift sometimes requires some mental maneuvering. Depending on the situation, and especially if I’m nervous, tired or upset, my mind will want to ‘code switch’, or speak ‘Spanglish’, which means going back and forth from one language to the other simultaneously.