Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Part 2, with Berkley Life Sciences’ Ioanis González-Rodríguez
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Ioanis González-Rodríguez, better known as "E," a Life Sciences Associate here at BLS, if he would share his experiences about his Hispanic background and what this month means to him.
E, what are some of your favorite traditions or cultural celebrations significant to your Hispanic culture?
Three Kings Day (El Día de los Reyes) is probably the best part of being Puerto Rican. Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, so you exchange gifts a day early. The Christmas spirit lasts 12 days (like the song), from December 25th to January 6th. My mom's family is from a small town on the south side of the island called Juana Díaz, which has the largest celebration of Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico.
What particular foods are important to your family's heritage?
Puerto Rican food is the top three Hispanic food and the best in the Caribbean. The best Puerto Rican food is all the rum cocktails, especially coquito. It is a Christmas cocktail with rum, coconut milk, and cinnamon. Every family has their recipe, and you can usually find your nearest Puerto Rican family selling them in bottles or giving them as gifts for Christmas.
What Hispanic literature, music, or movies do you enjoy or recommend?
The most popular music Puerto Rico has given to entertainment is reggaeton. I grew up listening to Daddy Yankee, and having the biggest Spanish music genre brings pride to Puerto Rico. Jennifer Lopez is also my mom's second cousin. Unfortunately, I have never met her.
Have you traveled to any Hispanic countries or regions that left a lasting impression on you?
I have not been there recently, but I used to go to Puerto Rico to visit my family every summer as a kid. Even though I was not born there, a part of me always feels at home when I am there. I am as prideful about the country as any other Puerto Rican (and we are very loud and proud about our heritage).
Have you faced any challenges or unique experiences because of your Hispanic heritage?
Growing up as a Puerto Rican in New Jersey, a diverse state, I did not feel out of place. However, for college, I attended a predominantly white institution in Indiana. Being Puerto Rican made me feel "outside" of the university's culture. I would not necessarily have called it a challenge because I always felt I fit in with different ethnicities, whether white, black, Hispanic, or Asian. Being assertive and outgoing in a suburban Midwest environment was a bit of a learning curve and was more of a culture shock. Ultimately, I learned from others the same way they learned from me: a different perspective on culture and background.
What drew you to the insurance industry, and how has your Hispanic heritage influenced your career?
After graduation, my ethnicity did not impact my career trajectory. I did not know many Hispanics working in the insurance, so I did not have a specific role model directing me to that industry. However, I like to be different and try new things, so I jumped at the opportunity at Berkley Life Sciences after learning more about life sciences. Although I knew little about life sciences or insurance beforehand, Puerto Rico is a huge pharmaceutical manufacturing country. Even though I do not have family in the industry, Puerto Rico has a large sector of jobs, and you are usually within 10 miles of a manufacturing plant. Because of this, I am sure, over time, you will see more Puerto Ricans stateside within life sciences agencies and carriers.