A few weeks ago, I participated in an American Marketing Association luncheon. This speaker at this luncheon presented on Generational marketing on a very macro level. As I sat surrounded by my marketing peers, it became an interactive luncheon with us raising hands and sharing brief thoughts on the slides that were populating on the screen. "The civil generation - they would have worked at the same organization for 20, 30 years and been content with that. This generation can be defined as being very loyal. . .how many of you have a grandparent that embodies this?"
As hands shot up around the room, mine stayed on the table.
"What? You don't have a grandparent who did that?"
"No," I told my co-worker, who has been born and raised in South Carolina along with her grandparents and great-grandparents.
"Because they were migrant workers. . .they traveled."
I'm not totally sure how to describe the look that came upon her face. I'm not sure if it was dismay or maybe a bit of embarrassment on her part. To be honest, for a moment, a very brief moment, I felt a pang of shame.
Not because I forgot about being an Islas or Ramirez.
Not because I forgot that my grandparents hands must have been calloused throughout their lives because of their work and my hands gently glide over a keypad for a living.
Not because I forgot that right after being American I have deep a Mexican heritage.
But because I felt like maybe, just maybe, I haven't always shown that side.
Needless to say, it was an emotionally draining day after that experience.
Upon returning to my corner office with a wall full of windows, largely oversize leather chair and space that any VP would covet, I reflected upon what makes me Ashley Ann Islas. . .
I am the daughter of Amparo Olga Ramirez and Fernando Islas, Sr (Note: My parents do share a last name).
My name comes from a promise my mom made to her sister. My middle name comes from the english version of my mom's name.
I am the granddaughter of Herminia Ramirez and Juan Ramirez. (Note: They had the same last name prior to their marriage although they were most definitely not related).
I am the granddaughter of Rosa Campos and Jose Arturo Islas.
The Ramirez were Texans with Mexican roots. Juan was a crew leader and he would take Herminia, Amparo and Rosario (my aunt) along with him. You name it. . .they picked it. We actually recently found a photo never before seen of my grandfather with his daughters in Charleston. What a small world that I would live here now. They settled in Homestead, Florida. I never met Juan. Herminia passed away in 2010 after a battle against Breast Cancer.
The Islas were naturalized American citizens. . .after entering the United States as undocumented immigrants. Like the Ramirez, they were migrant workers. They were a family of 10. They called Homestead home. I briefly met Rosa. Jose is still alive near Atlanta, Georgia.
My mother has worked in the school system for most of my life and even worked at Wal-Mart at nights for her family, but prior to that she was a waitress and I'm sure a few other job titles.
My father worked in a packaging facility as a manager and then entered the retail industry. His primary calling? A bi-vocational Southern Baptist minister.
My Islas family calls Frostproof, Florida "home".
I am a first-generation college graduate. I am one of the first on both the Islas and Ramirez sides of the family to have received my four-year degree, but there are several coming on behind me to carry on the torch. There are plenty of others who have gone on to obtain well established jobs, too.
I have worked with the Detroit Tigers and several other multi-million dollar organizations.
I am one of the few salaried employees of color at my current employer.
I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I speak perfectly in English and semi-well in Spanish and American Sign Language.
I am Ashley Ann Islas...the product of immigration, faith, hard work and sweet tea.