Erik recently traveled back to his Mother’s small village in Mexico to learn more about his heritage. Her hometown is a small, rural, lush and green area, where all of the food is locally produced. He was able to spend a couple of weeks connecting with family and learning about his Latino Heritage.
“At first it was challenging, since I was so unfamiliar with any cultural references or new Mexican slang.” Spanish is the primary language spoken in Erik’s household, but for him, that makes connecting with his own generation more difficult. He explained that the Spanish his parents speak is more closely aligned with Spanish from the ‘90s. It is very direct, and rooted in respect with elders.
Erik’s dad is from an even smaller village in Mexico. Eventually, his father moved to a bigger town in Mexico, and then proceeded to move to Southern California with Erik’s mother in their early twenties.
“As a first generation Mexican-American child, I learned a lot of my English from PBS television. My parents never fully learned English, so it was up to me and my siblings to teach ourselves the language.”
Now, Erik is the café Manager of our Rosslyn café. After five years of previous coffee experience, he ended up at Compass and was able to work his way up to a manager role, a role he has now had for almost a year. “Working for a small company that values real relationships, gives you the opportunity to be more connected to the coffee and people. The whole company is so accessible, from the production team, to upper leadership, I have learned so much about coffee and the company.”
Working in Arlington has given Erik the opportunity to share his love of coffee with his customers, many of whom are tourists from Latin American countries. As a fluent Spanish speaker, he finds that when he can use his first language to communicate, he is able to have a more in depth conversation with his customers about coffee, and Compass.
“It is nice to acknowledge the existence of those from Latin America and Spanish-speaking countries,” said Erik. He explained that it can be easy for cultures to get erased after the first generation; “it is important to keep learning about our culture and heritage.”
A lot of Erik’s traditions center around food, family, love, and connection. For Erik, relationships are prioritized. “Keeping in contact with people is something that has been a major focus for my family, especially as we have all grown up.” Every year, Erik looks forward to the holidays. They are one of a few times of the year that he can spend time with all of his family. Most of the holidays are spent in the kitchen, where his mom makes up recipes, and his cousins spend time laughing.
After Erik moved to DC, he had a challenging time connecting to his heritage. He found the Mexican-American community to be smaller here than in Southern California, and missed all things familiar, like family and food. Once he discovered a Latin American market that sold many of the ingredients he was used to, he has spent a lot of time trying to recreate his family's recipes. “I Facetime my mom a lot to ask her questions. Turns out, she doesn’t use many recipes.”
Having two cultures mixed together has been an amazing experience for Erik. “It is humbling and teaches you to appreciate what you have, and where you came from.”
“The world is going through a turbulent time. The challenges many Latin American countries are facing right now are complex, and as many people are working on making things better, all I can do is lean on hope and look towards the future.”