Amazon's Sairym Ibarra and Dora María Abreu share what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them and how they're marking the occasion


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Amazon employees mark Hispanic Heritage Month

Amazon employees mark Hispanic Heritage Month

 September 24, 2020

Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1988 after California Representative Esteban Torres proposed the designation to Congress.

Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, Hispanic Heritage Month expanded the week-long designation established in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. The dates designated are significant for the culture as September 15 to October 15 encompasses the independence days of several Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile; and Columbus Day, or Día de la Raza, on October 12.

Amazon employees, Sairym Ibarra and Dora María Abreu, share the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month and their experience celebrating the event with Amazon - both in the past and in the 'new normal'.


Learning about Hispanic Heritage Month through Latinos@Amazon

Amazon

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Sairym Ibarra (pictured above) did not know what Hispanic Heritage Month was. In fact, she wasn’t even aware that she was part of a minority group until she left her native city and went to work for Amazon in Seattle.

There, she started hearing about Latinx events and keynote speakers organized by the employee affinity group Latinos@Amazon.

"I got the concept, but for me it was new," says Sairym, a senior tax analyst at the company. She began going to meetings, later became more active in the group, and now helps organize events to mark Hispanic Heritage Month.

"I would find so many things in common with other Hispanics—we can talk about novelas (soap operas), for example," Sairym reminisced about parties at Amazon in the days before the pandemic. "It was also fun to see people from outside the Latin community—Asian, African American—dancing salsa. We all blended in and learned from each other."

Organizing virtual events to connect Hispanic colleagues

Hispanic month amazon

Established at Amazon in 2012, the Latinos@Amazon employee affinity group also coordinates to bring mentors to Seattle-area high schools that have a high percentage of minority students; hosts workshops, social, and cultural events; and participates in recruiting efforts at conferences and colleges.

While these types of in-person activities are currently on hold, Latinos@Amazon has found other ways to keep traditions alive remotely by organizing virtual events, including an introduction to Mexican wine, professional development panels, and a Brazilian DJ set.

Dora María Abreu, regional program manager for engineering excellence at Amazon and a proud New Yorker with Dominican roots, had been with the company for just a few months when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. She decided to start a virtual cafecito (coffee break) with several other Hispanic coworkers and has found in it a way to connect and build relationships with others once a month.

"Meeting a lot of Latinos at Amazon has been great, because I did not see a lot of Latinos in the jobs I had before," she said. "I am impressed to see so many in positions of management. I feel that I belong here."


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