Life Lessons from a Mixed-Race American

Vivienne Ayala.

September 23rd, 2022.

During the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is sharing and studying the contributions of Latinos to the U.S. Economy. We are learning more about the history, perspectives, and family backgrounds of our members from Employee Resource Group Unidos Latino. Visit Economy and Communities Latino for additional information on how the Fed SF is gathering knowledge about the economic impact of Latinos.

I grew up and was born in Los Angeles, in the same neighborhood where my mother grew up. Despite the passage of decades, we attended the same middle and high schools. On the contrary, my father was born in the rural town of Tlasasalca in the Michoacan region of Mexico. As a child, he experienced the challenge of moving back and forth across the border, which made his education difficult. He spent a few years in Mexico and a few years in the United States, sometimes starting the school year in one country and finishing it in the other. Eventually, he had to cut his education short after middle school in order to assist his family. At the age of 16, my dad and his older brother embarked on their final move back to Los Angeles, and the rest of the family joined them a few years later.

My dad’s choice to remain in the United States established the path for our future family. While working at the Cheesecake Factory, he subsequently met and married my mom. Together, they raised me and my two sisters.

My path to the Fed

Through the lessons and stories I learned from my father, I embarked on my own path in life. I think there is something of a lot of children of immigrants that feel no matter where their family is from, this is something that is a matter where their family is, because our parents endured so much to raise us. I think this is something that make it harder to work and reach to dream bigger, and was given more opportunities with me than they ever were, to provide infinitely more than they ever were.

A recent photo of Vivienne with her parents.
A recent photo of Vivienne with her parents.

In order to also earn his approval, I recollected that I was undertaking these endeavors. Furthermore, I recalled that having the necessary credentials to apply for such positions was a tremendous honor. During those moments, my father came to mind. Every effort I exerted seemed futile as I endeavored to secure employment during my final year of studies, constantly facing rejection. When faced with challenges, I encountered significant setbacks during my college years. I possessed an exceedingly competitive nature and believed that pursuing this path necessitated being unrivaled in every aspect.

I secured my first position, the San Francisco Federal Reserve in Data Insights + Analytics, shortly before the pandemic hit, and my hard work and perseverance paid off. Even to this day, my father continues to be impressed by this accomplishment, and it is a job that would have genuinely impressed my younger self when I initially started pursuing a degree in economics during my freshman year.

Growing up mixed

Growing up, I knew I was mixed – half white and half Mexican. Over the years, my family grew apart, and I only spoke a little bit of Spanish as my dad and a few friends at school were Latinx. I struggled to figure out how I related to my culture and identified myself.

Vivienne with her father when she was young.
Vivienne with her father when she was young.

My dad is an immigrant and his incredible life story, shaped by his determination and struggles with inequality, has given me a better understanding of what it means to be Mexican American in the United States. Through his perspective and perseverance, I have seen that even without a formal education, a clean criminal record, or English as a first language, he has accomplished so much. Most of my experiences and bonding with my dad revolve around our Mexican culture and heritage.

Unidos and our community

At the Bank, I had the valuable opportunity to strengthen my relationship with my Latinx community and culture through my membership as a Unidos employee resource group member. It’s been meaningful to hear stories from colleagues with different backgrounds, even those who came from different countries like my father. I’ve learned so much from our shared experiences and engagements in our meetings. This year, I became a part of the Steering Committee of the Professional Development Team.

I also had the privilege to support our community through volunteer opportunities in the Twelfth District. I loved getting the chance to meet students from Firebaugh High School during their visit to the Fed this year. I participated in mock interviews with high school students from East Los Angeles and Firebaugh High School. Additionally, I took the time to do a virtual storytelling session with preschoolers through our partnership with Pastoral Proyecto.

I am grateful to be able to apply my work ethic and life lessons to strive for the opportunity to create at the Fed SF. Here, I recognize that everyone around me has the potential for greatness, regardless of their circumstances, background, or education. However, I know that success in my own life has meant working hard. The most important lesson I have learned is that anything is possible. His experiences and the lessons he has taught me have made this country a better place, and I know that he deserves to be here and that he has done everything for his family. My father has overcome everything and has shown me the importance of understanding and overcoming obstacles. Today, I understand the value of his contributions.