Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by recognizing new leadership at the Red Cross

National Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize the myriad contributions and accomplishments of Hispanic Americans both in the Red Cross and the broader community. One such impressive Latina, Dr. Hortencia Jiménez (Monterey County), recently joined the Board of Directors for the Central Coast Chapter. A published scholar, Dr. Jiménez brings decades of work in immigrant rights, lived experience as a Latina immigrant from an indigenous background, and community connectivity to the table.

“I was working with the Monterey County Immigrant Services Network of Empowerment (CISNE)—a hub of service providers—when a member of the steering committee suggested I apply for the Red Cross Board of Directors,” says Dr. Jimenez. “I wanted to make sure I joined a board that was committed to racial equity and social justice work. Michele [Averill, CEO for the Central Coast Chapter] was intentional – she told me that she thought I would be a great person to work with and engage the Latinx community.”

While still a self-described “newbie,” Dr. Jimenez is learning her role step-by-step. She has grand yet practical visions on how to use her post. “I want to bring experts from the Red Cross to facilitate training with local Latinxs communities and immigrant groups,” she says. “We need to create and build relationships with various community groups. I’m excited to be a bridge between the Red Cross and the Latinx community in the Central Coast and beyond.

You can follow Dr. Jiminez here on Instagram.

Editor’s note: The following is an interview published by the American Red Cross Latino Resource Group in their recent newsletter.

Esquina Profesional 

Enjoy this Interview segment that Highlights a Latina/o/x professional, in this segment with Dr. Hortencia Jimenez. She was born in Nayarit, México and raised in Watsonville, California. She spent her childhood summers and teenage years working in the fields, picking raspberries alongside her grandmother. Dr. Jiménez is the first in her family to earn a doctorate degree from both her maternal and paternal side of the family. She received her B.A and M.A in Sociology from San Jose State University and Ph.D in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Hortencia Jiménez is a Sociology professor at Hartnell College. Her past teaching trajectory included the National Hispanic University, Pacific Oaks College, Gavilan College and CSU Monterey Bay. Prior to becoming a professor, Dr. Jiménez worked in the non-profit immigrant rights sector in the Bay Area  Dr. Jiménez has several publications in leading journals in Sociology and Latino Studies. Her commitment extends beyond academia, volunteering in a wide range of community efforts.

As a women of color at your professional level, how do you approach being addressed in regards to your ethnicity?

I identify myself as a Mexican immigrant from an indigenous background. I always center my immigrant experience as a formative part of who I am because I grew up undocumented and raised apart from my parents and sisters. 

I use Latina, Latinx, Mexican, and immigrant interchangeably.

How have you navigated not getting offended during uncomfortable, micro aggressive or offensive comments?

I’ve experienced micro aggressions throughout my education and more so in my doctorate program. As a woman of color in a Ph.D. program that did not have a lot of representation it was difficult for me to exert my voice, to feel empowered to speak out. Now, when I experience microaggressions I will identify them and name them and politely tell the individual. Often times, it might take time to process the incident to be able to name what happened. Sometimes for the sake of my mental health and wellbeing, I will not engage in a conversation that I feel will not lead to dialogue or understanding. I simply remain silent. Silence is also powerful.

Do you get asked if you are a Latina or Hispanic?

Yes. Often times people ask me “where are you from”? I respond by saying that I was raised in California and but originally from Mexico. I use the label Latina and if people specifically want to know my nationality, I say Mexican. 

When questions on your background get asked with an negative undertone of rudeness or racism,  how do you respond?

I simply make a decision if I’m going to engage in conversations that will not lead to dialogue. If someone is being racist and disrespecting me, I will not engage with them. If I have the mental and intellectual energy to engage in a conversation, I will. Otherwise, I simply decline to engage.

Have you encountered issues being a Latina moving up the corporate ladder? If so what advice can you give us?

Personally, I have not encouraged any challenges or faced the glass ceiling. I work in education and have no desire in moving to administration. I did move to tenured as a faculty and did not experience any form of inequality or discrimination. However, this does not mean that other professors don’t experience the glass ceiling or discrimination.  It is well documented that Latina and women in general get paid less and face many hurdles moving up the corporate latter. 

Within the Latin X community not everyone is okay with the different labels (Ex: Hispanic Chicano, Latino). How do go about speaking to fellow Latinos to not offend them by selecting the wrong label when addressing them?

I always indicate how I identify myself and ask others to tell me how they identify themselves. I respect everyone’s choice of self-identification. 

When speaking in front of a large group of Latinxs, I indicate the label that I am using and why. If I’m speaking to one person, I ask how they identify themselves and if they use any label.