Jessica Gonzalez Discusses Recent Hispanic Representation in Mainstream Media and Its Impact on Culture
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 the final installment of our 2023 Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight Series, Houston attorney Jessica Gonzalez talks about being one of a few Hispanic students in her class growing up and how she used standing out as an advantage. Ms. Gonzalez also takes a closer look at recent Hispanic representation in mainstream media and its impact on American culture.
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Episode 5: Jessica Gonzalez Discusses Recent Hispanic Representation in Mainstream Media and Its Impact on Culture (You are currently viewing Episode 5)
Jessica Gonzalez: I am a native Houstonian, so one of the few people that was born and raised in Houston, Texas, a product of public schools in Houston and was lucky enough to go to Harvard University for my bachelor's and came back to Houston to the University of Houston for law school. I was really the only Hispanic, one to two Hispanics in the class, and the rest were Caucasian. And so I think that I was able to bring maybe a different energy or perspective, definitely looked different. And in some ways, you know, standing out, that can be a disadvantage. But I always took it as an advantage. During school projects, I would always be one to try to incorporate food into any project that I did. So we would bring flautas or we would bring tacos, any element. You know, I don't care if it was a book report, I would try to bring in something that, that would make the class happy. And that kind of highlighted my culture and heritage a little bit more.
Spanish was my first language, and then I started learning English in kindergarten, and pretty much once I turned 10 and I was in the fourth, fifth grade, my mom would speak to me in Spanish and I would answer in English. I was embarrassed to speak Spanish in front of my white friends. I was embarrassed when other Hispanic kids that weren't part of the advanced class would talk to me in Spanish in front of my friends. And I mean, this is a natural part of growing up. And I think that the most that we can really do with kids is let them know, hey, I've been there. I know what that's like, and I know that you feel this way, but I want to let you know that now I regret those things and I'm so appreciative that I get to speak two languages. I'm appreciative for the culture and for the things that my parents tried to teach me.
My mom was born in Mexico, and she is from Zaragoza, Coahuila. Coahuila is the most northern state of Mexico. She actually came to the United States as a migrant farm worker. So, you know, working in the fields was not a very easy life. We've heard a lot about that, especially coming from Mexico, where she felt like they were pillars in the community. Her father was a sheriff and then coming to the United States as a migrant farm worker and starting all of the way at the bottom. But she worked very hard and actually became the head of a migrant farm workers council. And while she was working there, my dad was working for the Department of Labor, and part of his job was to go around, and he was monitoring different sites and he saw my mom and fell in love at first sight. She wasn't convinced, but he's also Mexican. He's Mexican-American, but he was born here in the United States. And so I think that they're kind of, you know, they ended up starting their own business together, doing staffing and recruiting here in Houston and, you know, kind of lived that American dream story.
I think I was very lucky with my parents who are very involved in my education and with the resources that I had growing up. And I know that there are not people that are that lucky. So through the Hispanic Bar Association, we aim to promote Hispanic lawyers, and one of our missions too is giving out scholarships to law students and to high school students. So we give out about $50,000 in scholarships every year. So it's just a way that I feel like I can give back to the community.
I think that we're seeing a lot more about Hispanic stories. I mean, even in Disney with Encanto or Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I'm a huge fan of, you know, the stories that he puts out and the content that he's putting out. I think that having those stories out there in the mainstream, because a lot of times these things weren't mainstream before, right? Now it's like we have In The Heights and we had Encanto all in one year. Before that, it was like the last big movie was Selena. That was the blockbuster movie. So these things are changing in the media, and I think that that's sometimes the things that kids look to or that even adults look to that kind of shape our stereotype. So I think that slowly we're coming to recognize that Hispanics are part of this community, they're part of America. You know, there's a person here at Rice University that studies demographics. And he's like, even if we closed the border today, the reality is of the way that this country is going to be shaped in the way that we're looking is going to be predominantly our majority Hispanic in the future.