The Unsung Hero: My Hardworking Hispanic Dad
June 17 2012
By Camila Gallardo, Senior Communications Manager, NCLR
Today is Father’s Day, a day we commemorate with the yearly ritual of buying cologne or ties (in the case of Latinos, the ties can often be swapped out for a nice Guayabera), a steak dinner or tickets to a ball game for the man who helped raise us and shape us into the people we are today. I can’t help but think that sometimes we get caught up in the tradition and don’t take enough time to reflect on what it truly means to have that man in our lives. This is a man whose hard work and sacrifice helped to create that feeling of security and constancy that we’d always have a roof over our heads and food on the table, even though times may have-- in all reality--been tough.
When I was growing up, my father--a Cuban exile who came to this country at 17 with not a penny to his name--was always present, but often absent, if that makes sense. Why? Because he worked two jobs during the week and one on the weekend; often, I would catch only glimpses of him in the early morning when he kissed us good-bye and the smell of his cologne would jar me awake (yes, Latino men often wear cologne even to their blue collar jobs). It was great to see him on the weekends when he was able to spend some more time at home and relax. I look back at those times wishing he didn’t have to work so hard; I know there wasn’t a job in the world my father wouldn’t have taken just to make sure we didn’t go without. When I think about my childhood, I’m often wistful and wish he’d had more time at home, but I’m also enormously proud of his sacrifice and his work ethic. As a parent myself now, I am more fully aware of that driving desire to give your kids more, and better than you had.
Latino men like my Dad have been an important segment of the workforce in the last several decades, but today, they are indispensible. While the non-Hispanic labor force has decreased, there has been tremendous growth in the number of Latino workers; in fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hispanics will account for three-quarters of the growth in the nation’s labor force from 2010 to 2020. What’s also interesting, particularly at a time when minority communities are disproportionately affected by the unemployment crisis, Latino men are much more likely than any other group to be employed or searching for a job; the labor force participation rate for Hispanic men in 2011 (the latest available) was 76.5% compared to 71.3% for White men and 64.2% for Black men.
Today, my dad is retired and other Hispanic men have taken his place in the labor force, including my hardworking husband. Finally, my father is able to enjoy a bit more of the fruits of his labor, and to my delight, is a constant and reassuring presence in the lives of his grandchildren. So today, on Father’s Day, let’s take a minute to say thank you for the hard work and sacrifice of all the Latino men in our lives who went without so we wouldn’t. I certainly will.
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas