Hispanic Heritage Month: Miguel Mendez

October 4, 2022

My Hispanic cultural identity
Dios, patria y libertad!

Although I have lived in the US for all but one year of my life, I was born in Ecuador, and my heritage makes up a vast component of my identity. My culture influences every aspect of my life when it comes to food, music, sport, and most importantly, values. I was lucky enough to have parents and two older sisters who helped me to put these values and traditions into practice at an early age, so I am now able to teach them to my wife, Julie, and my son, Michelangelo. 

I migrated to the US when I was a little over a year old, and only returned to visit when I was younger, yet I have a few special memories from my childhood I am able to recall. These notable moments consist of collecting Dragon Ball-Z cards, playing futbol with the neighborhood kids after eating lunch at my Grandma’s, and salchipapas. Salchipapas translates to ‘hot dog fries’. I remember eating them with ketchup and homemade mayonnaise alongside a Coca Cola in a glass bottle. Hot dogs and fries are certainly not, by themselves, an Ecuadorian staple, but combine the two, throw on some chopped red onion, homegrown tomato, and cilantro on top… yum! Other stand-out Ecuadorian dishes are the ‘mote pillo’ which is cooked mature corn with scrambled eggs, ‘llapingachos’ or potato patties cooked on a griddle giving them a golden-brown crust, and ‘humitas’. Humitas are steamed masa and corn enveloped in a banana leaf; they can be sweet or salty resembling ‘tamales’ from other Hispanic cultures.

When it comes to music from my culture, Julio Jaramillo was to Ecuador, what Frank Sinatra was to America. Jota Jota achieved great success performing pasillos or the ‘waltz’ throughout Latin America. Pasillo, or ‘The Hall’, is the musical genre that originated in the neighboring country, Colombia, but since Ecuador was once part of the Republic of Colombia, naturally, there are many shared traditional elements. His popularity and his music’s impact on my country was so profound it was estimated approximately 250 thousand people attended his funeral and his birthday is a national holiday.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to me?

All the various aspects of my Ecuadorian background make up only a small portion of what my culture and Hispanic heritage truly mean to me. Every time I’m reminded of my beautiful native country, whether it be by a song, delicious food, or my family’s spoken language, I think about my father and mother’s difficult decision to leave their homeland to provide my sisters and I with a different life. This subtle reminder is enough for me to want to continue embracing everything that being Ecuadorian means to me and share that with my family, friends, and most importantly, my son, so I never forget my roots.

I am thankful to be able to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month alongside The SR Group and all our brands across the globe.

Hispanic Heritage Month series

Read more interviews from our colleagues celebrating their Hispanic heritage here:

Mirna Sanchez at Frazer Jones – Viva Nicaragua

Nahomy Nunez at Brewer Morris – Viva Honduras

Nico Chavez at Frazer Jones – Viva Peru

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