National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. We spoke with Sarah Vasquez, a senior manager of public relations at Mozilla, who also co-leads Latinzilla, a Mozilla Resource Group for the company’s Latino employees. Below, she shares her cultural roots, why she got involved with Latinzilla, how the group commemorates the month and what impact they are having at Mozilla.
Tell us about yourself and your work at Mozilla.
I identify as a Tejana, which is Spanish for “Texan” and a term often used to refer to the sub-culture belonging to the Mexican Americans who live specifically in Texas, or people descended from the northern Mexican population who lived in the region prior to it being a U.S. state. My mother immigrated from Coahuila, Mexico when she was a little girl and was raised in South Texas. My dad’s family is Mexican American and has been in South Texas for generations. Enjoying delicious “Tex-Mex” food, Tejano music and its folklore are only just a few things that add to the uniqueness of this special culture.
I’m also a senior manager of public relations at Mozilla and work across policy and corporate communications. It’s challenging work, but I get to spend a lot of time in the evolving space of AI, product innovation, web standards and regulation. If done right, my work can help bring continued longevity to Mozilla and our mission of making the internet a better place for everyone.
Can you share about your involvement with the Mozilla Resource Group, Latinzilla, and the work you all are currently up to?
I joined Latinzilla about a year ago, and I was asked to be a co-lead with another colleague. It was frightening at first because I saw it as a great duty to represent something in which people invest in and share their identities together. It’s extremely important for employees to have safe spaces where they feel comfortable expressing who they are, which includes their ethnicity and cultural backgrounds.
This year, we sought to rebrand the group, as members felt the former name did not capture the essence of Latinos at Mozilla. We set out to champion a new space for Latinos that would reinvigorate the community and get more people involved. Since then we’ve been able to rename the group, create a new logo and designs for community merchandise, and host community-building initiatives.
What comes to mind when you think about Hispanic Heritage Month?
I think about the richness of my culture and breaking stereotypes. There are a lot of stereotypes about Latinos and the Hispanic community, and often I find myself as the only person of Latin descent in many of the spaces I occupy today. It’s really wonderful when I find myself in a meeting and recognize someone who has a distinct Latin or Hispanic last name, which makes me comfortable enough to ask how they identify and if they are interested in becoming involved with Latinzilla.
The cool thing about working at a global company like Mozilla is that there are many Hispanic- and Latino-identifying people who originate from and now live in many different places. Many of us speak Spanish, some of us don’t – like myself– so I am always mindful of cultural sensitivity. We aren’t reflective of just one unilateral identity but many, and being Hispanic or Latino/a can mean different things depending on who you ask. The Latinzilla resource group is a place where we get to learn about each other’s separate identities and subcultures, while exploring what it means to be Hispanic or Latino for each of us.
You mentioned a ‘rebrand’ of the group. How do you go about choosing a design and merchandise that will resonate with your community?
Another great thing about working at Mozilla is that we have so many talented people who are in tune with pop culture. Our ability to pull from pop culture and past cultural references has made a difference in how we effectively connect and instill a sense of pride within our employees.
In addition to rebranding our logo, we also wanted to create limited edition merchandise to share at our annual Mozilla all-hands [event]. We found inspiration from the familiar game, Loteria, and created our own Mozilla Loteria card-inspired stickers and shirts. It was great to show up as a unified Latinzilla community and spend time with the other resource groups during our various mixers! I’m already looking forward to brainstorming designs for next year’s merchandise.
Another sticker we created was an “M” that stood for Mozilla and incorporated the flags that represent our various nationalities. We also worked with Mozilla’s very own audiovisual designers to create some unique Zoom backgrounds that were reflective of different Hispanic and Latin regions.
What makes your experience at Mozilla special?
Initially, I was apprehensive to lead our resource group. I didn’t want to feel singled out or as if our group was being put on a soapbox every time Hispanic and Latin Heritage Month rolled around.. In contrast, our Inclusion Diversity Equity & Accountability (IDEA) team and many of our colleagues take the work very seriously. It never feels like these resource groups are in action only during the various pride months. But rather, the work is being done all the time and there tends to be special emphasis on celebrating intersectionality, which is important to me.
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