Mi Casa Es Su Casa.
Why Hispanics Excel in Hospitality.
By Nicole Quiroga.
President & CEO.
Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
On occasion, when I was a little girl, I would sit my parents down at the dinner table and proceed to take their orders for the evening meal. Pencil and notepad in hand I began with my mother:
“Señora, que desea cenar? And when she selected from my homemade menu of ham or cheese sandwiches I had already prepared, I would say, “A sus ordenes.”
At family parties, I was exhilarated to pass out punch, offer hors d’oeuvres and hand out handkerchiefs before we began our traditional dances. My family would thank me and I would respectfully and enthusiastically reply “Mi casa es su casa!”
Like a majority of Latinos, I was raised with, and exposed to, the cultural values that influence our beliefs and define our behaviors for a lifetime. These most salient and important values are centered on family, respect, caring and kindness and form our personal habits that manifest in our social and professional environments every day. It is no wonder why we are able to take our deepest life lessons and use them to excel in an industry that is founded on those same concepts…Hospitality.
Hospitality is loosely defined as the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests and strangers. And here is why we as Latinos are excelling in this industry hand over fist.
To begin with, we put Familia above all else. We develop an unwavering bond to our nuclear and extended family that elicits strong feelings of loyalty, pride, reciprocity and solidarity. We are raised with a sense of responsibility to help the family whenever possible. Even our family fiestas put us all to work, prepping, cooking, cleaning and even singing and dancing for the entertainment portion of the day.
From young, we are immersed in a culture that celebrates family, consistently surrounded by warm and welcoming hugs and kisses. As a result, we put less emphasis on material things and instead, learn to put our family’s happiness first because we treasure our cohesiveness. The harmony of the group is critical and we are uneasy with discord. We fervidly respect one another and pay special attention to our great grandparents, grandparents, parents and other family elders.
We relish the opportunity to be of service to those we love and value. We open doors, walk arm in arm, carry heavy items and give up our seats for one another. We nurture, coddle, spoil and protect each other. We fuss, we pamper and we treat each other with utmost care.
As the President and CEO of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I live in a city that is now considered one of the top vacation destinations in the country, one of the best places to live and a favorite city to be a foodie. Hospitality is one of Washington D.C.’s strongest sectors supporting 80,000 jobs in over 130 hotels with over 31,000 rooms, more than 2,000 restaurants and 45 performing arts venues with more than 27,000 seats.
With the ever-growing Hispanic population in the U.S. and the fact that today, Hospitality is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, it is no surprise that Hispanics are a definite part of the successes of the hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, airports, amusement parks and movie theaters in our nation. The correlation between the success of the Hospitality industry and the fact that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hispanic workers represent 25% of the workers in Hospitality is certainly not lost on me.
Let me also add that because Hispanics are now more acculturated, educated and experienced in our professional fields than ever before, industry leaders are increasing efforts to deliver executive-level employment opportunities to Hispanics and other minority groups. Why? Because they know that the kind of core values we were raised with will be present throughout our professional paths and will translate into the ability to command and give respect, show empathy, provide guidance and build teams that work together, cohesively.
Truly, as Latinos, we are raised to be attentive, joyful, respectful, polite, kind, inclusive and responsive.
We are hospitable.
Every time we provide an experience for another that serves them up joy, we are doing what we learned and what we love. Every time we make a memory for someone, we are opening our hearts to them. Every time we shake a hand, offer food, say welcome, give advice, solve a problem, deliver a service or simply tender a smile, we are sharing a piece of our culture. We are making others’ lives a little better – those of our children, our family, our friends and our community. And in some small way, we are always saying,
Welcome, Mi casa es su casa…”
Nicole Quiroga, a native of Washington DC, is the CEO of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Previously she held the position of General Manager of Telemundo WZDC-25 in Washington D.C. and Telemundo WZTD-45 in Richmond, VA. Quiroga is a television broadcaster with expertise in media sales, journalism, multi-cultural marketing, and strategic planning.