Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

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Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the beautiful history and culture of the U.S. Hispanic and Latino/x community. This annual event, which takes place September 15 – October 15, is an opportunity to highlight the community’s important contributions and the many ways in which they have enriched this nation. 

During the past month, the Califia Farms team celebrated and recognized the Hispanic community through a virtual Latin music concert, a virtual cooking class where employees learn how to make plant-based versions of popular Latin dishes, and more.  

Today, we’re proud to turn the spotlight on several members of our Califia family, individuals from diverse backgrounds who bring their own unique experiences and perspectives. Their collective knowledge and individual talents help strengthen our company, allowing Califia to bring the wisdom of a plant-based lifestyle to more people. 

 

Leslie Mazariegos-Maldonado

Logistics Analyst

  • Where are you/your family from?
    • Guatemala, a small town called Bananera (“Banana Town”)
  • Where did you grow up?
    • I grew up in South Los Angeles. Given the school track system (Los Angeles Unified School District — year-round school system), we would have extremely long summers. So during those summers, I would be in Guatemala every year until middle school. I have lots of fun memories — younger years spent in Guatemala and teenage/adult years here in Los Angeles.
  • What are some traditions celebrated in your family/culture?
    • We celebrate Semana Santa (Saints Week, or Holy Week), which revolves around Catholicism. In Guatemala, it’s a very big celebration. The whole country shuts down for street processions. For three days I go to Esquipulas with my familiy and go to church (the largest in Guatemala) with my whole family and pray all day.  We burn candles  — each color has a purpose (i.e. fertility, prosperity, etc.), and if you burn a specific color, you are praying to a patron saint. 
  • What would you like to share about yourself that is important for us to know about you?
    • I was raised by a community and that is my family. For me, I don't believe that my family is just my mom and dad. My family is my mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and aunts. They are all the people who raised me. They are my family.
    • I love to share that my hometown of Bananera was created to grow bananas. 

 

Catherine (Cat) Montalvo

Customer Operations Services (COS) Lead

  • Where are you/your family from?
    • Both of my parents are from El Salvador and immigrated here to get away from violence and war. My mom was 17, and my dad was 15 or 16. They met here in the U.S.
  • Where did you grow up?
    • Los Angeles — basically I feel like I grew up in a People of Color neighborhood wherever I went.
  • What are some traditions celebrated in your family/culture?
    • I haven’t been to El Salvador in 14 years, but when I was smaller, my parents would take me for two events. I remember Semana Santa — it’s an all-week party, with banks and government buildings closed, and a lot of street parades, carnivals, and processions. I really miss that. We don’t embrace it here as much because most of my family is in El Salvador. Christmas at Grandma’s house with endless amounts of food. She would open up her home in El Salvador and all of the neighbors would come — everyone would bring food: pupusas, pastelitos and fireworks were big, too. It was very different to see fireworks at Christmas time. For Christmas here you never spend it with neighbors — there, in El Salvador, it’s everyone in the neighborhood. Now that I am older, I would like to visit and be a part of that again.
  • What would you like to share about yourself that is important for us to know about you?
    • Making sure that I represent that I am a Latina is important to me. I always speak Spanish when I have a chance. I try to support restaurants that carry Salvadoran food. I’m very openly proud to be Latina and have immigrant parents.

 

Walter Gonzalez

Inventory Deployment Manager

  • Where are you/your family from?
    • My family is from El Salvador. My dad is from Mexico, but I grew up more with my Salvadoran family, so we have more of those traditions.
  • Where did you grow up?
    • Born and raised in Los Angeles. It’s definitely a place I love because of the diversity of people and how the city is set up. I don’t see myself moving out; there is so much variety here, like different places and food. 
  • What are some traditions celebrated in your family/culture?
    • The food is a big tradition, like making Salvadoran tamales for Christmas time. For Thanksgiving we make traditional American dishes plus Salvadoran ones. Food is an important part of Hispanic celebrations. Sharing recipes and cooking styles between generations connects and reminds us of our culinary traditions and family history.

 

  • What would you like to share about yourself that is important for us to know about you?
    • My love of eating and cooking — not just traditional but any meals I come across. Not just having the meal but trying to figure out how to make it. Any time I try a new meal, I try to figure out visually and via taste how to make it at home. Creating the dish itself and seeing everyone’s faces when they try something I made and they give me that look that they are enjoying it— that’s the best feeling.
    • The proudest I’ve ever been about a dish I’ve made has been Salvadoran tamales and the pupusas. The reason I was so proud was because I had to meet my mom’s expectations. Being able to make it and having her approval was great. 

 

Alonso De Dios Lopez

Quality Assurance Supervisor

  • Where are you/your family from?
    • I am from a small town located in San Blas that belongs to Nayarit in Mexico (on the west coast), its name is El Carleno, with a population of no more than 250 people. When I turned 18, I moved to the capital of the state (Tepic) to start university
  • What are some traditions celebrated in your family/culture?
    • As a Mexican and a Catholic, we celebrate Christmas, Día de la Virgen, New Years, Día De los Muertos, the Celebration of the Saint Protector of the Town (Día del Santo Patrón), and San Juan Bautista
  • What would you like to share about yourself that is important for us to know about you?
    • I came to this country eight years ago, when I was 26 years old. I left all my family and friends in Mexico, looking for a better opportunity, dreams, and desires to help my family that I left behind.
    • I hold a degree in biochemistry engineering and a master’s degree in food science. I obtained these degrees when I was living in Mexico, and they helped me to get my first job in the United States.
    • I have been working for Califia Farms for the last seven years and have seen most of the changes and improvements that have happened at our plant in Bakersfield.
    • I have a passion for what I do for the company in the Quality Department.

 

Juan Mendez

Logistics Coordinator

  • Where are you/your family from? 
    • My father is from La Piedad, Michoacán and my mother is from Tijuana. They both came to the U.S. from Mexico as teenagers and met in Redondo Beach, CA. They got married and started a family in Harbor City before relocating to a small town near Bakersfield.
  • Where did you grow up? 
    • I was raised part of my childhood in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and part of it in Wasco, CA.
  • What are some traditions celebrated in your family/culture? 
    • Our family keeps the traditions of togetherness and respect. My father taught me to always remain respectful and be the bigger person. Love your family and take care of them. We love to celebrate holidays, even the little ones, because, let’s face it, we Latinos LOVE to party! My mom definitely keeps the traditions of serving hot foods in the summer even when it’s 102ºF.
  • What would you like to share about yourself that is important for us to know about you? 
    • Even though I was not born in Mexico, I strongly believe it is important to keep our culture and traditions alive. I love hearing stories about the way things were done in the homeland from cooking tortillas in the fire pit, to showering with water from the bucket. It makes me fondly remember the memories I made visiting as a child. Also, don't be afraid to practice your Spanish with family members and friends. It is a beautiful language that can greatly help the next generation in life and will carry on what our parents and ancestors came into this country with.