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The Power of Belonging: H&R Block Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

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September 30, 2021

H&R Block

¡Es tiempo de celebrar!

 “As the Belonging Council Chair, I often think about the things we have in common as well as finding ways to celebrate the differences, and it helps me identify what bonds us together,” says Luis Garcia, chair of Belonging@Block Council at H&R Block. “This year’s national Hispanic Heritage Month theme is ‘Esperanza: a celebration of Hispanic heritage and hope.’ It resonated at a deep level with me because it has been my experience that hope is America’s draw. There’s hope for love, opportunities, peace, and much more.”

image of Ivan Aguirre, senior graphic designer at H&R Block on green background
Ivan Aguirre, senior graphic designer

Hispanic Heritage Month is all about celebrating the diversity across Latin cultures and traditionally runs from September 15 through October 15. The Block mosaic logo above was designed ahead of last years’ Hispanic Heritage Month by Ivan Aguirre, senior graphic designer at H&R Block. At the time, he shared, “The Latin American/Hispanic culture is so broad and diverse, it would be impossible to narrow to only a few colors. There is a color for everyone! For the design itself, I wanted to show a complimentary mosaic that represents our own diverse backgrounds, origins and nationalities.”

H&R Block strives to cultivate a connected culture year-round where everyone feels a sense of belonging. One of the ways it does that is through the Belonging@Block Council comprised of associates who work to build H&R Block’s culture, supported by employee-led Belonging groups. This month, the Belonging@Block Council is leading and hosting events that pay tribute to Latinx and Hispanic cultures. This years’ celebration includes a virtual cooking class with Alvia Ineabelle Varona, a district general manager at H&R Block. Varona is teaching how to make bacalaitos, fried codfish fritters that are a staple in her home state of Puerto Rico.

“The way I learn most about different cultures and traditions is by learning about their food and spices. I volunteered to do a “Cooking Live” where I will share a few recipes that remind me of home. Buen provecho!” says Varona.

Varona is Puerto Rican, and although she and her three siblings were born on the island, they were raised largely in Miami. “Our parents married young and decided to raise a large family. What I remember most about how they raised us is that education and hard work will lead to success.”

Varona credits her parents with helping guide her into a career that made her happy. She says her parents’ priority was that they continued using their native language of Spanish, and that they pursue education beyond high school. “As native Puerto Ricans we take great pride in celebrating that we are fully bilingual. There’s not a single thing I can think of that makes ‘Mami y Papi’ prouder than to know that we are all bilingual, including 7 grandchildren.”

Family photo of a woman and her two sons smiling
Alvia Varona with her two sons

In addition to sharing her recipe for bacalaitos, Varona shares a special tradition and holiday that her family celebrates, El Dia de Los Reyes Magos or Three Kings Day on January 6.  “Similar to Christmas, which we also celebrate, on this day the Three Kings came to celebrate the birth of Jesus and gifted gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

For Varona, being unapologetically herself is important and she loves being able to “be the same within the Block community as much as the community I live in currently.” She recognizes the importance of building a connected culture and recognizes the impact each individual has toward creating that inclusive, welcoming space at H&R Block. To Varona, it means, “ensuring we provide an environment where we all want to be our very best because we can be who we truly are without having anyone provide us with a script. Allowing everyone to shine in their own skin.”

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