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What Does It Mean to Be a Latina?

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Recently, I had the pleasure of listening to Eva Longoria speak at a national event and when she was asked, "Why do you always mention or include your heritage in everything you do?" she simply smiled and proudly replied, "Because being a Latina is the most beautiful thing about me."

What does it mean to be Latina? As the publisher & founder of the Hispanic Network Magazine, I am exposed to a vast amount of information, trends and statistics. From personal experience, I came to the conclusion that being a Latina means having a deep appreciation of your background and understanding the great importance of family. For example, if you are a first generation Latina in the United States, you can appreciate the difficulties your family has endured and due to that experience has molded you into the person that you are. For most Latinas, family support has been integral to their success. Being of Mediterranean heritage myself and knowing the hardships my family had to endure gives me a clearer understanding and appreciation of Latina values. I have lived in many Hispanic countries due to my father's work and thus it has given me first hand exposure to the culture, showing me that my heritage is very similar to theirs. Both cultures are family oriented, hard working and passionate. What's a Sunday without the whole family coming over-again for the 2nd time this week?

Latinas are making strides; you see their growth in education, politics, government, and the workforce. They have become a growing influence breaking barriers. Many Latinas may be the first to receive a college degree within their family or like Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Elen Ochoa, the First Hispanic Woman Astronaut and let's not forget, Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, the First Hispanic woman conductor! These women are amazing!

Latinas understand the importance of community and are proud of who they are. Many have found that guidance through joining a group, attending school, becoming a member of any diversity or Hispanic group can assist them tremendously. These associations and organizations exist to encourage Latinas to get more involved. By reaching out to the communities Latinas are becoming more aware of their existence and the importance of these associations.

Within the last two weeks, on behalf of the Hispanic Network Magazine, I attended the National Council De La Raza (NCLR) Convention in Washington D.C., the American Latino Professionals in Finance & Accounting (ALPFA) Conference in Anaheim, CA, and the LatinaStyle with the National Hispanic Business Women Association (NHBWA), where over 2,000 Hispanic Women Business Owners gathered to learn more about how to grow their business.

Their advancements are attributed to their unity. It is seen clearly through business and social media. Currently, the U.S. Census Bureau reported there are over 787,900 Hispanic women business owners and that Hispanic women possess over $330 billion dollars in purchasing power! Recognizing the Latina's consumer loyalty and their social media involvement, Nissan, for example, just launched their Spanish language Facebook to increase loyalty and become evangelists for their brand. I've noticed Hispanics are smart phone enthusiasts. Verizon recently reported that over 100 million more smart phones will be sold by the end of this year. I heard on the radio the other day that Hispanic women would rather sleep with their smart phone rather than the person next to them. Not surprisingly, studies showed 52% of women would rather give up sex than their smart phone. Here's my opinion... everything in moderation ladies!

Would you believe every seat at each event I attended was filled? Sitting in the seats were eager and active Latinas yearning to grow, share and succeed. By attending workshops, seminars, and listening to keynote speakers, they were motivated to reach their goals! These conferences not only informed them on the importance of financial and business success, but also the importance of health. Currently there is a huge push to educate Latinos on obesity. According to the Center for Disease Control, "1 out of 7 Latino children are obese." Through these groups they will learn and succeed in shaping up their health. For example, the Alzheimer's Association is educating Latinos about the importance of early diagnosis and prevention methods. They estimate "African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer disease as Caucasians, and Hispanics are one and half times more likely to have the disease." Together through education and unity, Latinos can reduce these numbers. I am always impressed with the amount of information and current statistics provided at the conferences.

Latinas are passionate, wise, empowered and beautiful both inside and out. It's no wonder Eva is so proud of her culture and connected to her heritage. I have been asked many times, "Are you Latina?" and I simply smile like the Mona Lisa and make them wonder.