Isabel Diaz Talks About Connecting with Others Through Their Differences
Holland & Knight's Diversity Council and Hispanic Affinity Group are proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and pay tribute to the generations of Hispanics who have enriched America's history and continue to play a role in its future success. This year, we took time to speak to some of our Hispanic attorneys, who shared their stories with us. We now present a video series showcasing some of these conversations. We hope that the stories conveyed in these videos inspire those struggling with recognizing their roots and shine light to the contributions that Hispanics have provided to the United States.
In this video, Hispanic Affinity Group Co-Chair Isabel C. Diaz, a partner in our Miami office, introduces the series and talks about her personal experience as a Cuban-American. Isabel highlights the importance of using your roots as an advantage and being proud of where you come from. She also speaks about her many efforts to connect Hispanics across the firm to provide a foundation of support within the group.
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Episode 1: Isabel Diaz Talks About Connecting with Others Through Their Differences (You are currently viewing Episode 1)
Isabel Diaz: I am from Cuban descent. Both my parents were born in Cuba and migrated to the United States in the sixties. Even though I am from here, that tradition of being very much rooted in my Cuban tradition, I grew up with that. So it's a huge part of who I am. And ever since I was born, you know, and I was very close to my great grandfather, he kept this, like, family notebook of the roots in like our Cuban traditions, our family, the ancestry of the family. Now my uncle holds that notebook. When my grandfather passed away, he passed it on to his grandson, my mom's brother. It's all about the family for us, right? And our Cuban heritage and our love for the country and anti-Castro and everything that Castro took away from my family and the hope of one day going back to Cuba and seeing not so much going back to Cuba, but seeing a free Cuba. I am so proud of my ethnicity, that I've never seen it as a weakness. And maybe that's part of the way I was raised, to be proud of where I come from. So I've never seen it as a weakness. I've always seen it as a strength, and I've always tried to use it for my benefit. Yes, is my English, you know, have I? Maybe my reading comprehension growing up because I had the two languages was not as strong as maybe some folks that I you know, and not even growing up but even in law school. Some folks that their only language was English and mine was English and Spanish. So could there have been at some point sometimes did I struggle with that? And then I you know, I just worked a little harder? Possibly, but I've never really seen it as a disadvantage, the opposite. I've seen it as something that's strengthened me. And it's almost like I have that extra that, hey, I speak both languages and I'm very fluent and I can write and read in English and Spanish and use me for that. Right?
I tell these stories to my children. I make sure that my children know that they're Cuban-American, 100% American is number one. We are extremely proud Americans and this country has given us so much we don't take it for granted. Being involved in the Cuban American Bar Association is also very important for me. It's a way that I get back to my community, especially to my Hispanic community and my Cuban people. I have been part of the organization for many years since I really became a lawyer. I graduated from law school in 2004, and I think I actually was a part of the program even when I was in law school at University of Miami, UM, and a few years after I became a member, I joined the board. I was the secretary of the board. And in addition to that, for two years I was the co-chair of the Cuban American Bar Association pro-bono project. So as the co-chair of this program, my role was figuring out anything, any loose ends to help a program continue to grow and succeed. At that time, our director had resigned, so we had to hire a new director. We got extremely lucky with the director that we ended up hiring, even though it took many days, many hours of interviews. We found the right person who was actually still with the program as of today and has really taken the program to the next level. But in addition to that, as part of the fundraising for the program. Our role was also to find new ideas to fund the program. And one of the things we did was organize a 5K. I am not a runner, actually. That was the first time that I actually ran a 5K. I have never done that. But actually all the details that were involved in organizing a 5K was completely eye opening for me. Needless to say, it was extremely successful. We raised lots of funds. I am the co-chair of the Hispanic Affinity Group here with the firm. And I guess one of the biggest things when I first became co-chair that I tried to do was connect us more, and that was with my co-chair Jorge Hernandez-Toraño. Just connect us more throughout the firm. So we started having these quarterly lunches where I connected with everybody, and this was pre-COVID. So now with COVID-19, we have Zoom and everything is a lot easier. So we did video conferences and it was a way to sort of connect everybody to each other because that's really, I think, the benefit of having such a huge Hispanic group. It's the connections and the inter-networking that we could do with each other for the benefit of continuing to grow the firm. One of the big things that we tried to do also recently is we created this mentoring program where, again, it's part of sort of retaining, our Hispanic associates, our Hispanic partners, making sure that people have somebody to talk to within our group. Just do they feel that they're part of something. I'm so proud to have another culture. You know, I love being American and learning about the American culture, but I love that I can celebrate my culture. And then there's a month, you know, in the United States that allows us to celebrate this. You know, our ethnicity and, you know, to really make the world, you know, aware of all the different things that make Hispanics, you know, different and special and fun and that we can share that, you know, that's what makes our country beautiful, the diversity and the inclusion that our country offers and allows people to celebrate.