News | Sept. 30, 2021

National Hispanic Heritage Month Interview: Anamaria Perales-Lang

By Hispanic Employment Program DLA Land and Maritime

 From a Texan girl of Hispanic descent to a professional leader who has paved the way for many – who   is Anamaria Perales-Lang? I’m the daughter of strong, hard working and passionate Latino parents who taught   me that everyone has a purpose and a gift that they must share with others and use it to make this a better   world.  Every opportunity and hardship that I’ve experienced has been a lesson in my journey of life to be able to   help others with compassion and empathy.


 In your biography it states you enjoy helping people in crisis, especially Latina women and   children. Give us some examples of how you have helped individuals in crisis. Because I’m in a position to   create policy, I’ve made sure that insurance, personal time off and flexible schedules allow women to support their   family without making compromises of choosing work over family. I’ve also implemented programs for   disadvantaged women in crisis such as addiction, domestic violence, women out of prison and with language   barriers, making it easier for them to rent and have their own home. When women have no resources I’ve been   able to speak with them and help them with their medical needs, schooling for their children, rental assistance and   making sure they don’t feel alone. We had a single mom at the property who had middle school sons who were   causing havoc. Speaking with her, I became aware that she was working two jobs, had no other family and was a   survivor of domestic violence. We were able to help her enroll her sons into summer camp at no cost and get her   resources for family counseling.


 Considering the current COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse impact on socioeconomic development   and global health, what are some of the things Hispanics in our local communities can do to help   alleviate the dilemma of lockdown versus reopening, considering the tradeoff between public health   and economic well-being? Educating the Latino community in regards to mask-wearing, vaccinations and   making sure that resources and information are available in Spanish. Also, having Latino leaders set an example in   their own place of business and working with the Spanish media to bring awareness of the pandemic to the Latino   population. Above all, making sure the Latino community is aware of the many resources available to them for   rent, utilities, food and their economic well-being if they are in crisis.


 What are your thoughts on the terms “Hispanic” and “Latinos” to categorize Americans who trace   their roots to Spanish-speaking countries? Do you feel the descriptors for race assigned to those from     Spanish speaking countries adequately address the group as a race of people? The terms were created by   non-ethnic people and have changed throughout the years. For example: I’m of Mexican/Spanish descent and I’ve   been called Mexican, Chicana, Latina, Hispanic, Latinex; all terms that I’ve never agreed to. People of color tend to   be categorized by either their language or the color of their skin. I don’t believe that we’re a race because we   come in all colors and different locations and not necessarily speak the same language. You can be Hispanic and   not speak the language and you can speak Spanish and not be Hispanic. Neither the color of the skin or the   language defines you as a proud Latino or Hispanic.


 There can be pressure among Hispanics to assimilate into a more heterogenous society and abandon   the rich customs and traditions of our respective cultures. What are your thoughts on how Hispanics   can continue to celebrate our heritage and maintain our cultural identity? I was raised to be a very proud   American and was not encouraged to practice my culture publicly as a child. Perhaps because of the discrimination   my parents suffered. I discovered my culture as an adult. I’ve come to know that keeping traditions actually   enhances who you are as a person, as a professional, and being part of your heritage enriches your life. Being   bilingual is an asset and keeping the traditions of your culture actually honor your parents and ancestors.


 Speaking of traditions, what are some traditions your ancestors passed to you that you continue to   embrace and emphasize to your descendants? My cultural religious beliefs and traditions have been passed to   me and I’ve passed these beliefs to my daughter and to my grandchildren. For example, when my daughter got   married, the tradition of coins and the lazo were used and the priest explained the meaning of those traditions.   The celebration of the Day of the Dead, and knowing that it is very separate from Halloween, which we also   celebrate. The most important tradition was taught by my mother who taught me that we’re a community not a   person, and therefore responsible for one another’s well-being.


 In your opinion, how do we make our Hispanic heritage part of our daily lives and not just confine it to   a date or month every year? By practicing our traditions on holidays throughout the year and also educating   non-Hispanics to be part of it. During Christmas we do the novenas (posadas) and we invite everyone to be part of   it and learn. Also, to embrace the Spanish language and not shy away or apologize for speaking it. Educating   ourselves by reading books, watching movies and attending events that celebrate the Latino and Hispanic culture;   especially things created by Hispanic people throughout the year.


 What does the theme “ESPERANZA: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope” mean to you? In spite   of the setbacks that Latinos have encountered, we still continue to have hope and believe that the situation will be   better and the people will be okay. We’re strong people who have never lost hope that things will be better and our   children will do better than we did and their children will do better than them.


 If you could pick a personal motto, what would it be? “My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever   I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” - President Jimmy   Carter