Long before Dany Garcia learned what it meant to an entrepreneur, she remembers learning what it meant to be a Latina.
"Not only was I the only Cuban in my high school, I was the only Latina in my high school with my sister and my younger brother," Garcia said. "Right from the beginning there was this attitude that I was a little bit different, but I couldn’t understand why."
Best known today as the co-founder of Seven Bucks Companies, CEO of The Garcia Companies, and the new owner of the XFL, Garcia has come to understand the true diversity of the Hispanic and Latinx community, which spans different nationalities, races, and indigenous roots.
That diversity is one reason the businesswoman partnered with Hello Alice on a new initiative called Latinx the Mosaic. Structured as a $100,000 grant fund for Hispanic and Latinx business owners, Garcia's program also convened a panel of multi-hyphenate activists from the Latinx community to begin a conversation in service of a kinder, more inclusive identity.
Speaking with professor and author Tanya Hernández, award winning filmmaker Nadia Hallgren, Orange Is the New Black actress Dascha Yolaine Polanco, fitness guru Robin Arzón, and journalist Lilliana Vazquez, Garcia hosted a virtual discussion in which each woman described a similar journey of finding their place in the larger community.
"Even though my my dad was Puerto Rican, I thought that all Latinos were Mexicanos — that was my identity," says Vazquez, who grew up in Texas. "That was all my family and my community around me. Later, I quickly realized that this community is rich in culture and rich in diversity."
Whether it was being teased for having curly hair or shamed for a lack of Spanish language skills, many of the women on the panel described aspects of colorism and racism that penetrated every aspect of life, including their careers, relationships, body image, and family dynamics. Each said it took many years to grow into a sense of pride and understanding regarding their identity.
"As I’m older, I feel like we have to pick a side," Polanco said of her Afro-Dominican identity. "But it’s not about which one I want to be. I want to be all."
Showing that there is no singular way to be Latina has become an important part of each participant's life as a role model for the next generation — something that isn't always easy.
“We don’t have to be perfect in making this happen," Garcia said in conclusion. "We just need to make it happen."
Want to learn more and apply for a $10,000 Business for All grant sponsored by the Latinx the Mosaic initiative? Additional information and application links can be found at danygarcia.helloalice.com