"A culture of celebrating cultures"

Blue Shield is proud to support our members, people, and communities who are of Hispanic and Latin American descent all year round, and who we celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15–October 15.

This year, our ¡Unidos! employee resource group celebrated with an annual signature event titled Growing Unidos, Growing Together. The event brought together our people of Hispanic and Latin heritage. It featured a cultural, business leadership presentation from three guest speakers, including Dr. Juana Bordes, bestselling author of Salsa, Soul & Spirit, Dr. Cristina Padilla, and Veronica Corona. The event began with a cultural-honoring kickoff from traditional Aztec dancers, the Danza Group, and ended with a set from DJ Edgar, who spun a variety of Latin tunes.

Cesilia Chavez, Human Resources Technology Senior, helped plan the event and shared that her favorite part about working at Blue Shield is, “the people that I get to work with… we’re all working together towards accomplishing one mission.”

Chavez also states that in terms of respect, “I think that’s one thing we do really well here. It’s respect for our differences as well as our cultures. We respect each other and our ideas, and everything that we bring to the table.”

“People think of Latina women as being fiery and fierce,” says Araceli Garcia, Senior Program Manager and co-chair of ¡Unidos! (the Spanish term for ‘United’), “which is usually true. But I think the quality that so many Latinas possess is strength. I’m very proud to have Latin blood.”

“Latinas do everything ¡con ganas!”, (which translates to “eagerly” in English). “I am a woman, and I am a Latina. Those are the things that make my writing distinctive. Those are the things that give my writing power.”

“I have passion,” Garcia continues, “for the work I do every day helping the elderly communities and giving back to them and to my grandparents…” whom she is a primary caregiver for. It is her passion for helping this community that first brought her to Blue Shield.

“My grandparents immigrated from Mexico to the Imperial Valley before moving to East Los Angeles (East LA) to make a better life for their three daughters, one who went on to become an optometrist and the other two who worked in public service,” says Olga Gallardo, Corporate Communications Manager for Blue Shield Promise.

“During summers vacations, I would serve as my grandmother’s translator at her doctor or dental appointments, and despite juggling a few chronic diseases, having Medi-Cal kept her healthy enough to be our babysitter (and Spanish teacher) so that my mother could work full-time. These experiences, and being able to speak fluent Spanish, are what allow me to connect with our members and the media in a unique way. I’m proud of my roots and eternally grateful to my grandparents, who resemble many other Californians — including our members.”

“It’s an honor for me as a Latina, to serve members that look like me and my family. That speak like me, and that have also encountered the barriers that my own grandparents encountered.”

When speaking of what she most likes about working at Blue Shield, she says, “I love the diversity at Blue Shield and how everyone at all levels is willing to step in and provide guidance. It’s also very nice to work among people who are native Californians, and really understand the business and the needs within our state and among our Medi-Cal members.”

Gallardo celebrated Hispanic Heritage month with her niece and nephew, “talking about our Latino heritage, and stories about our family and ancestors.” She shares that her nephew asked her about it, and her niece did a PowerPoint presentation about this commemorative month. Gallardo took the opportunity to talk about their heritage and reminded them that it’s important to learn how to speak Spanish. “I remind them both that it's important to be able to connect with people in their language, not only in California, but also when they travel since Latinos are everywhere.”

“I’m getting nostalgic,” Daniel Rivas, Senior Manager of Community Health, says as he recalls how he’s been celebrating Hispanic Heritage month. “I visited my mom last week and borrowed some old photo albums, and saw pictures of my godmother, who passed away… Remembering the traditions and growing up as a little Mexican kid in East LA, going to the bakery to get a barquillo pan dulce (cream-filled horn) with my mom during her break as a cleaning lady at Casa Linda on Whittier Blvd. And how my community had examples of perseverance, like my high school (Garfield High School) that changed the status quo by teaching AP calculus to a class of students with ‘GANAS’ – showing that minorities can accomplish it and succeed.”

When it comes to the word pride, Daniel has much to say, as he recognizes there are two sides to it and, “pride can be harmful when it prevents you from seeing things from a diverse perspective.”

Leaving something behind for those who come after us is one of the goals of Alex Luevano, Community Connector and Health Advocate. Alex works in partnership with L.A. Care Health Plan to connect individuals among underserved communities (with or without health insurance) to the resources they need for their overall well-being beyond physical health. He wants “everyone to feel supported and like they are getting the help they need.”

Alex advocates for community members as if they were his own family.

“You have to have passion for what you do and do it with compassion — caring and helping your fellow man. At the end of the day when I go home, I feel good about myself… It’s all about making a difference in the community.” He continues that, “the only way to make change is to be a part of it.”

Alex celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by volunteering with some local kids in East Los Angeles, sweeping their community running path that surrounds a neighborhood cemetery. He’s also partnered with council members to make improvements in the neighborhood and leave it better for the next generations. A cause he gladly volunteers his free time for and calls his “labor of love.”

No barrier cannot be broken,” he concludes, “and there’s nothing you cannot accomplish. As long as there’s a commitment and desire to make a change, anything is possible.”

Our people, including Cesilia, Araceli, Olga, Daniel, and Alex, are committed to making a difference, which, “at the end of the day,” Daniel says, “making a difference and giving back to our community is why we do what we do.” As is the ability to, “work for an organization that recognizes our diversity in membership and has a culture of celebrating cultures.”

If you’re interested in joining the Blue Shield team, we’re looking for talented people like you. Look into our available career opportunities and apply!