Interview with Manuel Haro for Hispanic Heritage Month
By Maaike Leene
Twenty one years ago, Manuel Haro came from Mexico City to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to get his master’s degree in business. He now serves as the division VP of Greater Philadelphia at the GIANT Company and is the executive sponsor of MOSAIC, a Business Resource Group (BRG) at The GIANT Company that builds awareness and promotes inclusion of all cultures and ethnicities. He has great passion for diversity and inclusion.
“I’m going to be very honest with you” says Manuel and one can immediately feel the openness he exudes, “I was born and raised in Mexico. Still, it’s hard for me to explain what makes somebody part of the Hispanic community. When you talk about Hispanics you are talking about a combination of different cultures in one person. It’s not about where you were born or where your family comes from, it’s also about the traditions you celebrate, the food you eat and the feeling you have. Everybody within the Hispanic community has their own story, their own background. The Hispanic community is made up of people whose families have been born in the US for generations but trace their roots back to areas in Latin America. The community is also made up of people like me: born and raised in Mexico City and my children here, in the US. There are more than a thousand variants and stories of people who proudly call themselves Hispanic,” he smiles.
Manuel plays a strong leadership role within MOSAIC. When asked to describe the BRG, Manuel says: “MOSAIC is broadly oriented. It consists of a mixture of people from different backgrounds. It is important that the community offers a safe place for conversations about origin, background, and opportunities to network and get to know people. And, the group is also a place for inspiration. For example, MOSAIC helps to inspire our Merchandising teams to offer customers from specific areas the products for Hispanic Heritage Month that make them feel at home. Because we reflect the markets we serve and we can truly offer our customers the products they are looking for.”
We spoke to Manuel about what he celebrates during this month and what feeling it gives him. He begins to talk about the important holidays in September and October: El Grito on September 15 and Independence Day on September 16. Manuel then takes it to the present day: ‘Diversity and inclusion is about learning from and about people, about different cultures and what one really stands for. Everyone has a history and a reason why they are the way they are. This month is Hispanic Heritage Month and we celebrate it with our families and friends. But we also celebrate to inspire others.”
“Every year, we, my family and friends, kick it off with ‘El Grito’,” he continues. “This literally means ‘the scream’. Miguel Hidalgo, also known as the father of Mexico, triggered the Mexican War of Independence against Spain. Nowadays we celebrate this day with friends and family and eat a lot of good food!” Manuel has three children who are all born in the US. “They love the food,” he says. “But it feels different when you’re born in Mexico yourself or only know it from TV. In every town and village in Mexico, Independence is celebrated in every square on September 15 and 16. They reenact El Grito by ringing the bells and waving the flag. The coming together, the energy, that is something I still feel every year. We share a strong love for traditional food. There are friends and family in the kitchen all day long during the celebrations. Not to help with cooking but to directly eat what is made. Trust me, the food often doesn’t make it to the dining room. My favorite food is tacos. In the US, many people think that a taco is a hard shell, but it really isn’t. They are soft and small. You will never find hard shells at my house, ever!”
During Hispanic Heritage Month, team members can commit themselves in various ways to celebrate. One way is through volunteering, something Manuel’s team members get very excited about. “We do a lot of volunteering,” he says proudly. “Two of our team promises are ‘Be You’ and ‘Make a Difference’. Be proud of who you are and where you come from, that is a very important message. We encourage and empower this by letting associates decide where and when they volunteer. We give back to the community in measure of time, which is our most precious resource as a human being.”
Manuel hits the nail on the head. It takes time to get to know and understand the deeper layers of a person, of a community. We can only do this by listening to each other and investing time in each other. “My experience is that diversity and inclusion is very complex because it transcends regions, countries and even continents. But it’s more important than ever. Hispanic Heritage Month is an invitation to everyone to get inspired and to get connected. Maybe one day we will all have a community and a sense of belonging, where we feel at home and can be ourselves, wherever we are in the world.”
Want to learn more about MOSAIC or other BRGs? Feel free to contact Manuel Haro or Aaysha Noor (DEI Lead for The GIANT Company).