In my family “Está en las manos de Dios” (It’s in God’s hands) was never far from my mother’s lips. My brother Chris needed a baseball outfit; my class needed costumes for the school play. And where were the cookies for the church social? “What are kookees?” my mother would ask. No matter what the challenge, somehow she always managed to get what was needed for her eight children and to help others in the community as well.
God looked after her. How else could Celia María Bordas have ended up in the three-bedroom house in Tampa, Florida—not far from the same ocean waters that lapped up onto the Caribbean shores where she was born—if God hadn’t put her there?
Generations of Latinos simply believed in God’s providence. In fact, my Tía Anita summed up her fe (faith) in six words. When asked about something that was planned, she prefaced it with “sí Dios quiere” (if God wants this to happen). After the event happened, she responded “gracias a Dios” (thanks be to God). So coming or going, she had it covered. It was in the hands of God—the Man with the plan.
The waters of Hispanic spirituality run deep. Fe has been the sustainer—the integrating force holding Latinos together from the time of the conquest to colonization, being deemed a minority, and struggling as immigrants. Faith engenders hope, humility, courage, gratitude, and celebration—all spiritual qualities that enrich leadership.
In Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman defines optimism as the greatest motivator, because it expresses a strong expectation that things will turn out all right, despite setbacks and frustrations. He cites that optimistic people tend to be more successful.
Optimism is esperanza (hope)—an essential Latino quality. My parents displayed optimism when they sang a favorite lullaby, “Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores” (Sing, don’t cry). They taught me that when you’re facing hard times singing will change your attitude and get you through. Canta y no llores nurtures a “can do” hopeful attitude, fosters perseverance, and counsels people to stick together—all valuable leadership traits.
Latino optimism was validated by a New York Times/CBS News poll that noted that 75 percent of Latinos believed their opportunity to succeed was better than that of their parents. Only 56 percent of non-Hispanics thought this was true. Additionally, 64 percent of Latinos thought life would be better for their children. This jumped to 83 percent for Hispanic immigrants, but was only 39 percent for non-Latinos.
Likewise, The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement study “Latino Professional Pulse” found that 72 percent of Latino professionals were positive about their future. This is a no-brainer for Latinos. My house is the nicest I have ever lived in. I have more disposable income and nicer things than my parents. From the low-income situations many Latinos grew up in – our future is brighter. Things are looking good.
“Canta y no llores” reminds us that by staying positive, by singing and working together, we can overcome difficult situations. Leaders tap into this optimism to inspire and motivate people even when the odds are stacked against them or success might take decades or even generations. Hope and celebration are the essence of Latino leadership reflecting an enduring faith in life’s goodness.
Juana Bordas is President of Mestiza Leadership International and author of The Power of Latino Leadership – the first comprehensive book on the subject. The book reviews 10 Latino leadership principles. The above is from Principle Ten: Fe y Esperanza – Sustained by Faith and Hope..
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