TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - September 15 marked the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month. It celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of Latino Americans.
“We appreciate, number one being here celebrating our culture and heritage, but we also recognize the challenges that my mother—our mother—went through to get here,” said Isabel Georgelos.
Georgelos and her sister, RJ Saavedra, are both first generation Mexican-Americans. Their mom immigrated to the U.S. by herself.
“She decided she wanted more. She was always really independent,” said Georgelos.
A single mom and tailor by trade, she worked two jobs to give her girls everything she could.
“My mom used to say you need to do things that are 10 times better than what I did, and that resonated with us, so now I say that to our children,” said Saavedra.
Saavedra and Georgelos are both well into their careers. Georgelos heading the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as interim president and CEO, and Saavedra as executive director of REACHOUT Women’s Shelter. With business and corporate world backgrounds, their mom laid the path for their success. Selling tortillas with her was their first after school job.
“We would make 15-20 dozen flour tortillas,” said Saavedra.
“You learn resiliency,” said Georgelos.
It was a lesson in business, but also culture—one Georgelos was once bullied for.
"I grew up with racist comments, I witnessed violence against kids just for being ‘wet backs’,” she said. “It got rid of my accent like that because you go into survival mode.”
The sister wanted to make their children’s experiences different than their own and set a path for everyone to have a successful life. Every day their work is to do just that, setting a foundation much like the one their mother had done for them.
“Take this time to be proud and show appreciation, not only for our own culture, but for others,” said Georgelos. “It’s going to be a better place for our kids….when we’re just celebrating diversity and the beauty of it.”
Hispanic Heritage month starts on the 15th—a day that marks the independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.