Blog_2023_Hispanic Heritage Month
People First

Highlighting Southland's Diverse Voices in Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Kathryn Foxby Kathryn FoxSep. 12, 2023

This article is part of our Southland Stories series, which highlights our employees and their diverse experiences and backgrounds. By recognizing and supporting our employees in connection to different awareness months and initiatives, we put our people first, directly sharing employee experiences, raising awareness, and fostering connection and inclusion across our company.  

At Southland, we value our employees' unique backgrounds and celebrate diverse heritages from across the world. To foster a sense of belonging, we empower our people to bring their authentic selves to the table. 

Every one of our people has a story, and throughout the year, we continuously look for ways to share and elevate their voices. During Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens with roots in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. 

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, our employees were invited to share their stories, reflecting on their Hispanic heritage, and discussing their industry experiences. 


  • Cristina Rodriguez, Senior BIM Specialist 
  • Aries Rojas, Project Engineer II
  • Brian Merida, PE, Design Engineer I
  • Allan Nguyen, BIM Support Specialist 
  • Israel Sumano, Senior Director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure 

Hispanic Heritage Month can mean many different things to Hispanic Americans. It encompasses and celebrates the uniqueness of cultures from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. 

Cristina Rodriguez: This month helps us celebrate and recognize the history, culture, and contributions of the American Latino community. Without the hardships of my ancestors, I would not be here with these opportunities. I not only like to recognize my ancestors, I also like to recognize and celebrate my peers and those walking alongside me on this planet. Every day, our community impacts this world and although this is only a month, I personally celebrate my culture daily and love to shine light on those making an impact in my life and on this planet. 

Aries Rojas: To me, it's a month to showcase our cultures and be proud to form part of this big melting pot that the United States is.

Brian Merida, PE: To me, it means more visibility for the community. It's a great way to highlight the accomplishments the individuals from this culture have achieved.

Allan Nguyen: It means the world because I love all aspects of Hispanic culture from the food, family values, and approach to living a plentiful life.

Israel Sumano: As a Hispanic man, it has a lot of meaning. The Hispanic culture has a very long history in this country, going back to the conquistador times of the 1500s. I believe we have been integral in the culture that we enjoy today across this nation.

The upcoming generation in the industry includes many young Hispanic/Latino individuals. Southland empowers the next generation with guidance and mentorship. 

Cristina Rodriguez: In the past, I was a mentor for the ACE program. I visited middle schools to assist the students in the club with their construction projects. This club ignited my interest in construction when I was in high school, so I felt it was my duty to give back to the program that helped me see that Latina women could be part of this industry. This upcoming school year, I plan on joining ACE again in Los Angeles and also hopefully NAWIC.

Brian Merida, PE: Networking is one of the best skills you can have.

Allan Nguyen: Take advantage of all the organizations you come across. While I was a part of an educational program in high school, I wish that I was more involved in these programs in college. My university had many clubs that were geared towards Hispanics/Latinos to grow skills and network in engineering.

Israel Sumano: Work hard, set your goals, and make sure you accomplish them. If you shoot for the stars, you will likely hit the moon.

Southland recognizes many events and holidays that span across multiple cultures to recognize, support, and celebrate our employees.

Aries Rojas: It makes me really proud that Southland celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and that the company invests time into getting to know its employees.

Israel Sumano: I think it is great that everyone gets recognized and that we show the diversity of our company.

In celebration of the many Hispanic cultures, some of the respondents shared a fun fact about themselves related to their heritage. 

Cristina Rodriguez: My father came from a family of 12 siblings, so yearly in December, the family always gathers around the festive times in our town called Atotonilco el Bajo, Mexico. Although our grandparents are no longer living, we still gather and participate in the ceremonies and parades, representing the Rodriguez family from the States. We give back to our town by providing meals for the elderly, we do clean ups, and host celebrations of life. As a tradition, we try to attend every year to keep our family connected and also to visit our grandparents' grave. It has been a tradition in our family for the past 30 years. 

Israel Sumano: Growing up, both sides of my family were farmers. My dad's family owned land and farmed it, and my mother's family also owned land and farmed it. Watching how drastically different things were between the two lands and how drastically different things get accomplished has always taught me a good lesson about life. My uncles in Mexico farmed with donkeys and ox, and my uncles in Idaho farmed with huge tractors. They all live happy, fruitful, and rewarding lives.

Our employees are encouraged to listen, understand, and celebrate the important contributions of the Hispanic and Latino communities throughout our history and industry. For more resources, click here.