About Us Purpose Hispanic Heritage Month: Helping a community, making a difference

Hispanic Heritage Month: Helping a community, making a difference

Events and employee resources help Hispanic and Latino Principal employees find community and bring their true selves to work.

Multi-generational Hispanic family with grandmother, mom, and daughter, hugging each other and smiling
5 min read |

At home, Guadalupe Lopez relishes Oaxacan specialties like tlayuda and memelas made by her mom. During the year, she looks forward to family traditions around holidays including Día de los Muertos. And at work, Lopez finds community with coworkers who switch from English to Spanish as easily as she does, as well as the Principal® Hispanic/Latino Employee Resource Group (HLERG).

“My colleagues are very supportive, and I’ve been fortunate to have roles where I have been able to put my bilingual skills to good use,” Lopez says, who is a transaction administrator at Principal Real Estate.

That support enabled Lopez to provide critical assistance when customers—some of them native Spanish speakers and many of them worried about the economy—called in with questions about their retirement accounts. “It helped for them to have someone they could understand without a translator,” Lopez says, who is bilingual and at the time was a retirement specialist. “I really enjoyed helping my community and making a difference.”

Guadalupe’s experiences—celebrating her heritage and traditions at home and work while providing specific insight to help Hispanic and Latino Americans—provide an example of how to strengthen inclusive connections, and not just during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Service for others

Everyone works toward financial goals differently—and has different challenges.

For example, less than six out of 10 members of the Hispanic/Latino community find it achievable to manage income and expenses, according to the 2022 Principal® Retirement Security Survey. Only 69% of Hispanic people say it’s easy to access a bank account, compared to 85% of those who are white. The survey also found that members of Hispanic communities are less likely to think they’ll be able to get a job and pay taxes.

When Diego Verdugo was 10, he and his family moved from a border town in Mexico to Douglas, Arizona. He was the first in his family to go to and graduate from college and learned a valuable lesson: Education opens doors.

When Verdugo joined Principal in 2012 as part of the leadership development program, he was able to help develop a 401(k) education program specifically for Hispanics. “I got to leverage my background and skill set, and train people who were running the meetings,” Verdugo says, who is a managing director with Principal.

Tip: Spanish speakers can find financial literacy and wellness information from Principal through:

Even then, Verdugo knew he could do more. “I asked if I could start conducting those 401(k) education meetings myself in Spanish and English,” he says. “Historically when companies thought about how to amplify bicultural and bilingual talent, one of the only doors open was through call centers. But now, our skills, backgrounds, and expertise are being maximized as we continue serving our customers, the employee population, and our community.”

Education for everyone

Verdugo has been part of the HLERG leadership team and steering committee since its inception. For him and employees like Lopez, the monthly meetings offer education, support, and professional development as well as an opportunity to celebrate moments like Hispanic Heritage Month.

For example, Lopez’s family, who are originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, have different food, traditions, values, and cultural experiences than someone from any other country in Latin America. “Events like Hispanic Heritage Month really help to educate others on those differences,” she says.

Tip: Latin America refers to a region, not a continent or country. Latin America is generally understood to include South America, Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean islands whose residents typically speak a Romance language such as Spanish or Portuguese. The term Hispanic generally refers to a person who speaks Spanish or is a descendent of someone from a Spanish-speaking population. Latino refers to someone from Latin America, or a descendent of someone from Latin America.

National Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as a weeklong celebration. Twenty years later, it was extended to a month—September 15 through October 15—to celebrate the history, culture, and contributions by citizens of the United States with ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Why mid-month? Within those 30 days are several countries’ independence anniversaries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile. This year’s theme is “Prosperity, Power, and Progress.” Principal and Principal® Foundation support several Hispanic/Latino celebrations including:

The HLERG leadership also maintains intentional connections to other Principal ERGs and enterprise-wide initiatives, such as a speaker series. “We don’t want to create silos,” Verdugo says. “We ask ourselves how we can take resources that might be concentrated in Des Moines and make them available to all employees—even overseas. We want to create strong communities for everyone.”

For Verdugo, involvement in HLERG has led him to opportunities with other organizations, such as the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA). He co-leads the Phoenix chapter where he’s now based; it received the 2022 Developing Chapter of the Year award. “Principal has always supported my work in ALPFA,” Verdugo says. “It’s our way of taking what we do here for our employees and communities and expanding it for the national platform.”

In college, Verdugo received a Principal minority business student scholarship—his first connection to the company. “Serving my community has always been a personal responsibility because a lot of people helped me along the way, so it’s a way of me paying back and paying forward,” he says. 

Now, as a formal leader, Verdugo helps to recruit and develop diverse talent by sharing the Principal story with underrepresented populations. “It’s important for me to relate to everyone where I came from and how I got here and how we at Principal share the same ideals and same values of helping people live their best life,” Verdugo says. “I am able to tell that story in our walls and outside of our walls.”