Hispanic Heritage Month is an international celebration held from Sept. 15-Oct. 15 every year. This year, we’ve asked our team at Utility, Inc. to share what their Hispanic Heritage means to them, as well as how the culture has shaped who they are and how others can learn from their experience.
In this Q&A, Frankie Cabrera, our Senior Production Manager at Utility, Inc. shares his background, culture and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him and his family.
Q: Can you share a bit about your background and how your Hispanic Heritage has influenced your life and identity?
A: I was born in Miami, Florida, and as a US citizen, my parents were born in Havana, Cuba. Both sides of my family left Cuba during the Freedom Flights before Fidel Castro took power. These were flights that allowed anyone to leave Cuba. My mom’s side of the family flew to Spain at first for a few years, then found their way to Miami later, and my Dad’s side flew directly to Miami.
Later, when I was born in the late 80s, gang violence in Miami started skyrocketing, and my parents did not want to raise children in that environment. When I was over a year old, my parents moved to Georgia, and we have been here ever since. So, I like to say I am Cuban, Miami-born but Georgia-raised. My grandparents and other family members eventually made their way to Georgia from Miami, and I learned a lot of our Cuban traditions and culture from my grandparents.
Q: Tell us your reason for joining the Utility, Inc. team.
A: I joined Utility Associates a little over ten years ago, in April 2013.
I originally applied for the position, thinking the Production role was related to film and video, as I had just graduated with a Bachelor’s in Video Production and Film Studies.
When I found out during my interview what Utility did, I was fascinated by how technology was being used in a mobile environment to provide data to clients. I love working with my hands, and the idea of working on and building different technological products intrigued me. Offering an avenue for me to learn even more about technology and how it interacts with our world.
I have been with Utility ever since, working my way through Utility, starting as a part-time Production Associate to now being a full-time Senior Production Manager.
Q: What are some of your Hispanic culture’s most important traditions and customs that you continue to practice or hold dear?
A: Birthdays and holidays are a big family tradition in my family. It usually involves most of my family members, and not just my immediate family; some even travel to Georgia from Miami to take part. At these parties, we always have a game of dominoes going, Cuban music, plenty of drinks, and plenty of food!
Food is a big thing in my culture and most Hispanic cultures. Everyone brings a dish, and we usually have a grill cooking pork in all its forms. We occasionally have pig roasts as well. We usually also have yuca, platanos maduros (sweet fried plantains), flan, and tres leche cake. Cubans are usually a loud bunch. Someone listening from the outside may think we are mad and yelling at each other, but it is just how we talk. The more Cubans in a room, the more excited the conversation gets and the louder we get.
Q: Are there any notable Hispanic figures, historical events, or cultural icons that have inspired you or impacted your life?
A: One major Hispanic figure and cultural icon that has inspired me and always reminds me of my grandmothers, who have since passed, is Celia Cruz. She is a Cuban singer and is often called the Queen of Salsa. My grandmother, on my mom’s side, was a musical composer in Cuba and later in Spain and was obsessed with Celia Cruiz, which led to me and my siblings loving Celia Cruz as well. Her influence and my family have left a lasting impact on my life, and several of Calia Cruiz’s songs speak to hard times and overcoming them. Most notably, her song “La Vida es un Carnaval” translates to “Life is a Carnival” and speaks about how we may view life as unfair or lonely, but that is never the case.
Q: In your opinion, what are some common misconceptions or stereotypes about Hispanic culture that you would like to address or clarify?
A: One misconception is that all Spanish countries speak the same Spanish; this is false. Most words are similar across different Spanish-speaking countries. Just like how Britons and Americans speak English, but certain words mean other things, and there are different slang words for each country; it is the same for Spanish.
For example, piña means pineapple to the Hispanic Islands of Florida (Cuba, Puerto Rico) and Mexico, but in Argentina, that means to punch someone, and they call it a pineapple Anana. Argentines call their Spanish Castellano, which is a form of Spanish closer to Spaniard Spanish, which could be considered the proper Spanish.
Q: Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to educate others about Hispanic communities’ rich history and contributions. What are the most important lessons or takeaways that people should learn during this month of celebration?
A: The Hispanic culture overall is very interesting, in-depth, family-oriented, and friendly. There are a lot of European influences in most Hispanic cultures due to the Spaniard Conquistadors and explorers.
For example, my family did an Ancestry DNA test, and even though the past 3-4 generations were born in Cuba, we were more than just Cuban. Our DNA is 47% Spain, 39% Portugal, 5% Scotland, 4% Northern Africa, 3% Basque, 1% Nigeria and only 1% Indigenous Cuba. We even discovered that most of our family line originated from the Canary Islands on the coast of Portugal and Africa.
Reviewing and tracing one’s lineage is truly fascinating and can be an eye-opener, showing that everyone has a little bit of something else in them.
Q: As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, what message or advice would you like to share with young Hispanics exploring their cultural identity and heritage?
A: I would just repeat words in Celia Cruz’s Song “La Vida es un Carnaval”
“Todo aquel que piense que la vida es desigual. Tiene que saber que no es así. Que la vida es una hermosura, hay que vivirla. Todo aquel que piense que está solo y que está mal. Tiene que saber que no es así. Que en la vida no hay nadie solo, siempre hay alguien,”
Which translates to: “Anyone who thinks that life is unequal, you have to know that it is not like that. That life is beautiful; you have to live it. Anyone who thinks they are alone is wrong; you must know it is not like that. That in life, there is no one alone; there is always someone.”
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