Frances Guasch De La Guardia Shares How Staying Rooted in Her Culture Has Inspired Her to Give Back
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. Since last year, we have taken time to speak to some of our Hispanic attorneys, who have shared their stories with us. We now present the 2023 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 on the contributions that Hispanics have provided to the United States.
In this video, Hispanic National Bar Association Region VIII President Frances Guasch De La Guardia, a partner in our Miami office, kicks off the 2023 series discussing her experience growing up as a Cuban American. Ms. Guasch De La Guardia shares how staying rooted in her culture has inspired her to give back. She also talks about her mom, who inspired her to be resilient and to be a strong, independent woman.
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Episode 1: Frances Guasch De La Guardia Shares How Staying Rooted in Her Culture Has Inspired Her to Give Back (You are currently viewing Episode 1)
Frances Guasch De La Guardia: I am a first generation American. My parents both migrated from Cuba in the early '60s, shortly after being married. So, when they were very young, they came here alone to this country. They were 20 and 21. My grandparents, their parents were able to come and live with them. I grew up in a household with my parents and my grandparents, so family is very important to me. I didn't have any cousins or aunts and uncles, so my grandparents and my parents, we were like a very tight unit.
I remember that I was one of a few Hispanics in the class, and even though I spoke perfect English, I would be told I had an accent, or I wouldn't pronounce, you know? And then those are things that we share, all of us that come here to this country. But then you grow up and you realize, hey, I know two languages. So, you know, I am like leaps and bounds above these people that made fun of me, right? But it happens. I mean, I'm very proud. I say I'm Cuban American, even though I was born here, my roots are still Cuban.
I was the first one in my family to graduate college and the first one to graduate law school. My parents were very proud of that. They always encouraged me, especially my mom. My mom was my hero. My parents divorced when I was young. So, my mom was a single mom for a long time. And she always encouraged me to be a strong, independent woman. And regardless of our standing and our race and being first generation, that we could do whatever we wanted to do. And because of her, I often say I am where I am today.
Coming from a family where I was always very encouraged and very supported and watching my mom not just do that support with us but pay it forward. Like this by being a very modest means. I remember my mom constantly donating. It was all about giving back. Regardless of how much you have financially, you can socially give back, you can volunteer. It's not just about giving money. So, I think that led me down that path. If you return back not just to your roots, but just to the community and you give back, it's sort of repaying where you have come from, and it also fulfills you because at the end of the day, you have to feel good about what you do. And that's one of the reasons I'm at Holland & Knight, is because they not just support it, they encourage it and they, you know, they walk the walk.
Here at Holland & Knight we have a very strong Cuban American Bar Association alumni, not just members, because there's a lot of members here, but we also have six past presidents now. So, I mean, we're the only firm in South Florida that has that many past presidents that were Cuban American Bar Association. It was those, those past presidents that encouraged me to join the board and then encouraged me to run, and specifically Annie Gamez, who is amazing. And she basically said to me, you need to be involved. It was a time in my life when my kids were grown. You know, I had my clients, I had my work, but I was missing something. And so, getting back to that heritage and getting back to your roots, because the Cuban American Bar Association is like a family. It really is a family. It's not like a family. It is a family that you can never let go. They will always be there, and that's a good thing because you can always rely on them.
That service in CABA led me when I finished and I was approached and asked to run for the Hispanic National Bar Association Region VIII president, which is Florida. I like it. It's just a family like CABA, but it also encompasses all Hispanics.
I think for my mom, I got my resiliency. She came here at a very young age, just married, found out she was pregnant with my sister. They didn't have money for doctors. I mean, she was on the welfare system. So, I think I learned from her that it doesn't matter where you start from, it matters where you end up. And success is really how you define it. It doesn't have to be being in Big Law, all right, it can be anything that makes you — and I've said this word a couple of times — fulfilled. You know, sometimes you will be the only Hispanic in the room, or you'll be the only woman in the room, you know? So, it's OK. You have to embrace that and not run away from it because speak up, put your hand up. Even if you are the only woman in the room or the only Hispanic woman in the room, or the only Hispanic man or the only black man or black woman, I mean, it's intimidating. I think all of us experience that. It's normal. Embracing who you are and being confident in that helps you in any career, in any job. It helps you just be a better human, if not better happy. How about that? It makes you happier. Like my mom said, you can't change what people are going to think about you or how they feel, but you can decide how you're going to react to that, and you can take that and make it a positive.
I've said this a million times, but I think we live in exceptional times, despite everything that's going on in our world. We still have incredible opportunities. And as Hispanics, as lawyers, as humans. And so, take advantage of that. That's all I would have to say. And, you know, yay Cubana through and through.