Recently I had the opportunity to meet Abigail Golden-Vazquez, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program. The goal of this program is to improve understanding of the growing Latino community and increase awareness of its critical importance to the future of the United States.
Abigail is passionate about this project because she believes that while there are a lot of great programs and organizations doing incredible advocacy work in the Latino community, they are not always getting across the barrier to a wider audience of influencers and decision makers. It’s important for the success of the country as a whole that Latinos have the opportunity to participate fully in our economy and our civic society, those who influence policy need to be mindful of the needs of the Latino community, not as Latino issues but as America’s issues.
“At this point, the success of the Latino community is intrinsically tied to the success of the country,” she says. “It’s important that everybody gets and understands this demographic change, understands the diversity of the Latino community, and that we’re working to make policies that benefit the country as a whole. It’s also important that we build Latino leaders and build their networks, so that they become even more effective.”
Part of Abigail’s passion comes from being raised in a very multicultural family. She says her life was very “West Side Story”. Her mother was a first generation Puerto Rican and her father was from an upper middle class Jewish family. Her parents were up against many challenges and eventually they split up. She spent the first 12 years of her life living with her mother in a Puerto Rican household and when she was 12, she moved in with her father, where she was exposed to a very different culture and opportunities. Abigail also has a brother who is African American and Puerto Rican. All of these experiences help her to appreciate conflicting cultural viewpoints and identify with people of different backgrounds. She sees these differences as an advantage if they can be embraced.
When I asked her what her guiding principles have been throughout her career she said, “I never had a grand strategy. I didn’t have this clear picture of what I wanted to end up doing or who I wanted to be. I was just focused on what I wanted to do at a given time and the mark that I wanted to make using that platform. I always wanted to be learning and I always wanted to be contributing something. Fortunately that openness led me to doing a lot of great work. That’s what I hope for everyone, not just Latinos. That they focus on doing the work that’s important to them and be open to what comes as a result.”
You can read the full interview here at BeVisible
Andrea Guendelman is co-founder of BeVisible.
At BeVisible we’re committed to building a thriving social networking platform to connect Latinas and help them build their professional network, showcase their skills, and accelerate their career. In order to bring the voice of leadership to these women, I frequently interview successful Latinas who want to share their story and be mentors to those who are just starting out in their careers.