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Celebrating Your Roots: Notes From The super{set} Team

super{set} staff feature for Latinx heritage month

For our final installments of our Latinx Heritage Month Feature series, we share the stories of three staff members working at super{set}, a San Francisco-based startup studio. We ask employees Melissa Lugo, Martìn Vargas-Vega, and Valerie Hernandez what their heritage means to them, what it’s like growing up as themselves, and how they use their identity for self expression.

Melissa Lugo

1. What does your Latin (Puertorican) heritage mean to me? 

My Puertorican heritage means I have a mixture of Taino Indian, Spanish and African DNA running through my veins. I am part of a culture that loves deeply, is VERY family-centric, food is the focal point of any and all gatherings (aka you must eat even if you’re not hungry) and yes, we deem to speak in a higher tone, not because we’re deaf but because we speak passionately about EVERYTHING. 

2. What was it like growing up Latinx (Puertorican)?  

– Growing up Puertorican was intense, colorful, lively and fun! Never a dull moment.

– Rice, beans, a protein and always a side of tostones (aka fried green plantains) at every dinner table. 

– Sundays were sacred, always the designated ‘church + family day’ which meant, you were forbidden to make personal plans, were going to attend church and then spend the day sitting around, eating, talking and ‘bonding’ with the grandparents and family (whether you liked it or not). 

– Frequent, beautiful beach days and fresh seafood meals at your fingertips

– A party’s ‘venue’ typically meant, it was at someone’s ‘marquesina’ (like an open-door garage because there’s no way the heat & humidity would allow anyone to party inside)

– Christmas celebrations begin Thanksgiving Day and go non-stop through January 20th. These celebrations entail: parrandas, coquito, arroz con gandules, pasteles, morsillas and of course, pernil (aka the roasted pig).

– Lastly, always, always, any greeting involves a kiss and a hug and that repeats itself even if you run into the same person multiple times the same day

3. Anything artistic/fun that you do?  If applicable, does your heritage have an influence in how you express yourself/what you do for fun?

I don’t have any ‘artistic’ gifts but my heritage definitely has a huge influence on how I express myself. People in Puerto Rico are warm, welcoming & always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone and I carry those attributes with me, even when a stranger is giving me a ‘surprised’ look wondering why I’m even talking to them. And of course, I can’t help but speak with my hands and enjoy cooking and feeding others. It must be the ‘passion’ running through my veins. 

Martìn Vargas-Vega

1. What does your LatinX or Hispanic heritage mean to you? 

Being Latinx means the world to me, it is who I am, and how I exist in this world. My Latinx heritage allows me to share the beauty of my Mexican culture with the individuals of the world. It allow’s me to speak across borders and share empathy with fellow immigrant’s and travelers. I have a great sense of pride of being Mexican and also being a Latinx in tech. 

2. What was it like growing up LatinX/Hispanic? 

Growing up Latinx taught me to have patience, empathy, meeting individuals were they are at, and how to be humble. You do not judge someone by the things that they have, but by the character of their spirit and how they treat you. Growing up, I wasn’t as prideful as I wish I could of have been.

I was taught by my Latinx teachers and parents to be proud of where I come from, and the story of our families journey to this world. In this world, we are valued as two individuals because we share both a Mexican & American culture, and we are able to communicate between two languages (Spanish & English). However, it didn’t take long for me to see that there are certain individuals in this world, especially in the United States, that did not like me for being Latinx, and for being born in America as brown individuals.

I had to learn how to navigate the hate that came along with being Latinx. This hate was heavily felt through my academics as I grew to be a high-achieving scholar, which would make my non-Latinx classmates say a narrative that at the time the news was pushing heavily (the message that Latinxs are dangerous, infestation, dirty, unintelligent, and “illegals”). So any time that I would be publicly recognized, I could hear them murmur between themselves that I only got certain awards or accolades because I was Latinx, instead of the hard work that I did. These events almost led to me rejecting my Latinx heritage and being ashamed of it. Luckily, my dad was a huge supporter during those events that shifted my mind to own my Latinx Heritage. He instilled pride in me being a Latino and my achievements. Speaking metaphorically he would tell me that I accomplished a lot with just a “stick and a rock”. It’s important to recognize that you have made it to the same spot that they have with your own willpower and resources. Someone out there will be looking at you and your story and say, “If he can do it, so can I.” So keep your head up, and keep moving forward. Don’t let anyone stop you. 

To me, my Mexican American heritage means empowerment, strength, the courage to exist, joy, pleasure, perseverance, and the ability to bring love to this world.

3. Anything artistic/fun that you do?  If applicable, does your heritage have an influence in how you express yourself/what you do for fun?

I dance Bachata and Salsa on a team known as Hermosura Dance Company in San Jose. My Latinx heritage has a heavy influence because within my family we love dancing, and through this I have been able to travel and dance with people from all around the world.

Valerie Hernandez

1. What does your LatinX or Hispanic heritage mean to you?

 My heritage means just about everything to me; it’s essentially foundation of my being. It allowed me to have greater perspective of the world, people, and even myself. Had I not grown up with Latinx parents, an undocumented uncle, and seen the adversity and discrimination people in my community face, I would not be the person I am today. My heritage has inspired me to be a hard-worker and to help everyone – especially those in marginalized groups, and to always be appreciative of my family and the life I’ve been given.

2. What was it like growing up LatinX/Hispanic? 

My dad was born and raised in the Central Valley of California; my mom was born and raised in Mexico and didn’t come to the US until after she married my dad in her late 20’s. Regardless of their nationality, both my parents have equally been prideful of their heritage. They made sure my siblings and I spoke Spanish, supported Latinx/Hispanic businesses, and participated in our culture’s holidays/customs.

Growing up, I attended a primarily white and affluent grade school. Unfortunately, it made me embarrassed of being Mexican and having a mom with a thick accent who didn’t speak, or act like my friend’s moms. I remember specifically asking my dad to bring me lunch at school, pick me up from school or from friend’s homes because he was more “American” and didn’t have an accent. It wasn’t until I reached my early teen years that I fully embraced our heritage – mostly because I found friends of color who could relate to my own experiences and were proud of it. As I mentioned before, I have an uncle (my mom’s brother) that was undocumented for quite some time. He’s always been like a second father to me and the thought that he might be deported one day gave me extreme fear and anxiety for years. Because of this, I still get very emotional and sensitive when I see/come in contact with people in similar situations. The lessons taught by my parents/family (mostly based around Latinx/Hispanic values) and my overall childhood experience has made me a more empathetic, caring, and warm person.

3. Anything artistic/fun that you do.  If applicable, does your heritage have an influence in how you express yourself/what you do for fun?

I like to play guitar in my free time. I’m usually inspired to play songs that reflect my mood in that very moment. Some of the songs I like to learn are Spanish tunes – mostly ones that I heard my dad play at home, or in his Latin-style band. Hearing my dad play Latin music is one of the main reasons why I picked up guitar in the first place.

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Vivian Wang

Vivian is a travel enthusiast and food connoisseur living in New York City whose curiosity and passion for languages and culture has taken her across eight countries over the past year. When not writing, she can be found snacking on street food or wandering in a museum.

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