This year, the CTCPA added a number of new staff to the team, including Professional Development Coordinator Kendalynn Morales.
Kendalynn was happy to share her story and celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (occurring annually from September 15 to October 15).
Tell me about your family’s background.
My family is full of very loud and proud Puerto Ricans. My mom’s side is from a town called Vega Baja and my dad’s family comes from the “campo” (countryside), a little town called Cidra. My mom and dad were born in Hartford; they’ve spent a few years living in P.R., but mainly called Hartford home, with their moms and siblings. I’ve only visited the island twice and the last time I went I was 9; I’ll be 25 in November. My mom works as a billing specialist for a law office and my dad works in a warehouse. I have a sister who’s four years younger; we are such a tight -knit family and I love it!
How much Spanish was spoken in your house – are you bilingual?
My abuela lived with us for a few years when my sister and I were younger; she helped raise and take care of us like a second mom (we call her “Ma” more than abuela). Spanish was her first language so naturally she taught my sister, and we knew it well until she moved in with my uncle a few years later and Spanish wasn’t spoken much in the house anymore. My parents knew English and Spanish, but spoke Spanish to each other but not to us, so we unfortunately lost a lot of the language. My sister and I can understand and speak a few things, but it’s mostly conversationally. I can understand the language more than I can speak it, but the goal is to become fluent.
How has your Hispanic heritage shaped you?
Like I said, we are very proud Puerto Ricans and even though we are part of the U.S., there are still people out there who believe otherwise. My family has always instilled in my sister and me that you have to be proud of who you are and represent for your people; just because we are the minority doesn’t mean we are any less than. West Side Story may have been just a musical, but the negative things the “Jets” were saying were things that were really thought about Puerto Ricans by many. I love that there are celebrities like Marc Anthony, Bad Bunny, Jennifer Lopez, etc. who are proving them wrong and inspiring other Hispanics/ Latinx like me that we can really become something - we’re allowed to be successful as well! I love being a Puerto Rican; the culture, the music, the food, none of that is anything to be ashamed of.
Can you share a favorite tradition, food, etc. your family has?
Every November, my mom, dad, sister, uncles, and abuela get together at my abuela's house to make pasteles; we create an assembly line and make at least 100 of them to eat through the holidays. Pasteles are made with pork and adobo stuffing encased in a green plantain mixture wrapped in a banana leaves; we wrap them in aluminum foil and keep them in the freezer. This usually takes most of the mornings and goes about four hours, or until all the food is used.
Another favorite thing - Hispanics make such a big deal about Christmas Eve. That’s the big party when family crowds the house, people come in and out with food (rice, pernil, the frozen pasteles, rice pudding, etc.), games are played and presents are opened. Christmas Day is just the day to “recover,” open presents from your household, and relax. My immediate family opens presents in the morning, relaxes in the afternoon, and then, for dinner, we go to a Chinese restaurant and go to the movie theatre. Odd, yes, but truly my favorite tradition.
Why do you feel diversity is important within companies and the business community
I believe diversity is so important because people of different cultures and ethnicities can provide many different insights that others may not have thought of. Personally, I feel like it provides a sense of comfort when working with a company that's inclusive and accepting of other backgrounds. It also can increase the success in a company because people want to work and support more diverse companies.
It is inspiring to others to see people who look like them be a part of these big successful companies and have successful careers. It provides hope for a brighter future, it’s a sense of encouragement that, no matter where you start, it is possible to make your way to the top.