by Ben Rodriguez

September 29, 2021

Vibrancy. Passion. Flavor. Those are the words I associate with my Hispanic culture.

I’m proud of my Hispanic heritage. As with all cultures, it’s part of my identity. It’s in my blood, influencing everything from my musical preferences to how I express creativity and experience the world. As a Hispanic American, I am a combination of many, transformed into one.

My grandparents grew up in Puerto Rico. My family takes pride in and celebrates our Hispanic heritage by embracing and learning the history, living in the present and preparing for the future.

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated annually from September 15- October 15, I’m excited to share some of my personal reflections as a Puerto Rican living and working in Cleveland.

Being Puerto Rican

Puerto Ricans throughout the island and in the U.S. have developed a strong, lasting culture fueled by ownership and pride. I can’t and won’t speak for all of us, but community and tradition have framed my life experiences. Authentic foods fuel my spirit, and music and art inject a vibrant energy into my life.

My culture permeates nearly everything I do. I look forward to weddings and other celebratory gatherings where old-school matriarchs prepare the best Puerto Rican dishes such as Papas Rellenas, Tostones and Arroz Con Glandules. Growing up, we listened to the radio blasting traditional Spanish music aired only on Sundays while doing chores and cooking is another nostalgic hit. Watching my parents burn the dance floor during a Merengue song, and hearing my dad play the Güiro along to Spanish Christmas songs from his childhood are also fond memories.

Cleveland’s Puerto Rican parade hosted every July seemingly brings out every Hispanic living in Tremont, Clark- Fulton and surrounding neighborhoods. I have pride knowing the festivities are for “us” and represent an opportunity to celebrate our authentic selves. The streets are filled with music, cars are adorned with flags and the scent of food fills the air.

Being Hispanic in Cleveland’s Design Scene

I strive to bring a lot of flavor and expression to my work. I’ve always been naturally curious, which fuels my creativity. Big ideas run through my mind. I do everything – act, speak and, yes, design – with an abundance of feeling.

Some have told me what I do as a graphic designer is magic. I view it more as a science –experimenting, failing and trying again. If art is, indeed, magic, I must pay homage because that spark was ignited long ago and has been carried on by those who lived before me.

My ancestors were inspired by nature – the trees, mountains and ocean – and the vibrant colors that surrounded them. I tap into that keen awareness and use it to my advantage to spread that secret sauce. I’m humbled to carry on that legacy.

Looking Ahead

Reflecting on the events of the last several months regarding race and class, I realized I wanted to contribute to the narrative. I bring my cultural experience and voice to Dix & & Eaton’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives as well as a valued perspective to all my client engagements.

Representation matters. Progress is being made, and I look forward to a future where I see more Hispanics making headlines for rising to be the best they can be and sharing it with others. I look forward to seeing Hispanic youth creating a ripple effect of their vibrancy toward progress.