Tell us about yourself. Include where you’re from, what you do, how you’re thriving and anything else everyone should know about you.
My parents are from El Salvador. My mom is from Santa Tecla, a town close to San Salvador, and my dad is from a village in Usulután in southeastern El Salvador. They came during the height of the civil war, but they met for the first time in Houston, Texas. After a few years of being together, my parents had me in 1986. From when I was born until 18, I lived in southwest Houston surrounded by all kinds of people. Most importantly for me, there is a large Salvadoran community in southwest Houston. Although I wasn’t born in El Salvador, I grew up with all the food, people, and music that served as a constant reminder of where I came from.
My mother urged me to acculturate to the United States as much as possible. Often, I would be at bailes or functions and stick out like a sore thumb with my Americanized Spanish and the way I dressed. Growing up, I excelled in school, and I went to magnet middle and high schools. I became even more Americanized as time went by. My mother encouraged it because she thought that was my best chance at being successful, but she still picks at my accent and how I forget words or how I refuse to eat loroco or papaya. On the other hand, I like to show off my “nearly authentic” Salvadoran accent when I’m around my mom throwing around “cipote” or “puchica” and ending my sentences with “vos” just to make her laugh.
I moved to Austin in 2004 for college. I went to St. Edward’s University for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in History and the Liberal Arts, respectively. When I moved here I was kinda shocked by the lack of Salvadoran culture. There’s about three or four restaurants now, but when I moved here I can only recall there being one. However, this did push me toward appreciating Mexican and Chicano culture so much more, and I learned that a lot of our cultural divides between Latin American countries can be pretty shallow. I remember being picked on in Houston for being Salvadoran by Mexican friends and vice versa. But here, I felt an unspoken connectedness with Latinx people in largely white spaces, of which there are so many of in Austin. So many times you find yourself being the only person of color in a room or situation in Austin. Despite our city’s “love” of our food and culture, so many of us are being pushed out by economic and social mechanisms that make being Latinx and connected to our culture and our people harder.
I’m currently working in marketing for a small non-profit in Central Austin. I also co-host a podcast called Breakfast for Dinner with my girlfriend Nicole. It’s a pop culture show that gives us a vehicle to dissect current events from our distinct perspectives. We’re not the most “successful” podcast, but we’ve helped create a healthy and fun community for our listeners from all over the world. I love soccer, music, and tweeting. I think that’s what you should know about me.
How do you identify culturally?
I identify as Salvadoran-American, but if someone asks me I always say I’m Latino. I’m working on using Latinx more in conversations.
How does your cultural background inform your thinking and sense of being in the world? How has it informed past decisions, successes, failures?
Being Salvadoran in the United States is particularly difficult sometimes. You want everyone to know everything about your food and culture, but a lot of the times you go into conversation with people who have preconceived notions about El Salvador because of its violent past and present. In the media or news, you don’t often hear success stories about Salvadorans. A lot of the time, it feels like all people discuss are murder statistics or gang violence. People don’t believe you when you tell them about El Salvador’s natural beauty or how Salvadorans are some of the funniest, most interesting people you’ll run into.
Sometimes I think I might approach situations with a chip on my shoulder. I think it drives me to be better and try to do things that I know no one in my family has ever done. Of course, this means I put a lot of pressure on myself, but my mother and father have always been good about not adding more pressure on me. They just want me to be happy with what I’m doing.
What inspires you and who do you look up to?
I’m truly inspired by people who are passionate and dedicated to their craft no matter what it is. It’s something to be celebrated when someone dedicates themselves to being the best they can be at something. As for an individual, I’d say at the moment it’s Kendrick Lamar. He does such a great job of letting everyone know exactly where he’s from. He also just happens to be the best rapper on the planet.
What is your best piece of advice to anyone who may be struggling?
Try to create a game plan and take it one step at a time. It’s my instinct to get frustrated when things don’t happen right away, but trust yourself and trust your plan. Stay focused on what’s in front of you and tackle one thing at a time. I’m not saying lose sight of the big picture, but sometimes only through planning and trusting the process can we conquer what seems insurmountable.
What are your future goals and aspirations?
I want to get more politically active, and whatever form that takes, I’m cool with. I think there are some amazing people doing all kinds of fantastic work across our state and country in the name of the working class and our community. There can always be more. Professionally, I just want to be the best dang marketing professional I can be.
Share one thing people should know about the Latinx community?
I think people need to know that we’re way more diverse than you think. We’ve got so many different shades, religions, languages, you name it, that make up our community. Hell, even I’m taken aback sometimes.
What is your favorite Latinx driven project and why is it your favorite?
I love Remezcla and what they’re doing to create a Latinx-focused media space. I know they’ve had some controversies lately, but I’m a big fan of where their head is at, and the content they put out.
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