This week marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage month in the United States. In honor of this event, we interviewed Erika Carrillo Lopez who works at our yarn-spinning facility in Salisbury, North Carolina to find out about her career growth at the company and what her heritage means to her.
Can you share your journey and how you came to live in North Carolina?
I was born and raised in San Diego de la Unión, Mexico. When I turned eight, my parents decided to immigrate to the US. We settled in California but shortly after, my father wanted us to move to North Carolina. I remember packing all our belongings into our van and journeying across the country as a family.
At the time, I barely spoke English. In California, it wasn’t an issue since I was enrolled in a Spanish school, but in North Carolina, my school was anglophone. It was hard. I had no choice but to learn the language quickly.
I’ve been living here ever since. Mexico will always have my heart, but North Carolina is now my home. It’s where I had my two children.
Can you share with us your career path since joining Gildan in 2015?
I started out as a traveler changer in the yarn facility, it was my first manufacturing job. Over the years, I’ve moved up through various roles; spinning operator, training coordinator and eventually made the leap to human resources coordinator. Recently, I was promoted again to Human Resources Generalist. I couldn’t believe it when HR announced it to me. I said, “do you think I can do it?” and they replied “of course, that’s why we’re asking you!”
What do you attribute your success to?
Every promotion I got was unexpected, but I guess I must be doing something right! I think it’s because I do everything with passion and joy. That’s why I’ve been able to move up and have such an amazing life here at Gildan. I’m also very proactive and curious, I always get involved and help where I can. I become a resource for people and over time that pays off. I put my heart into everything I do, and I think that’s my recipe for success.
What unique perspective has your heritage given you?
My parents raised me to value the bond and loyalty a family has towards one another. It’s one of our most important principles. For us, family is everything and we remain loyal to one another in the good and the bad times.
I cherish those values and the special connection my family members have. I think that stems from our culture that is naturally inviting and warm at its core.
What does National Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
For me, it’s about embracing my culture and being proud of where I come from. It’s important to stay in touch with your heritage, your culture, your language and your traditions.
Everyone should be proud of where they come from and this month is a time for us, Latinos, to commemorate that.
Being proud of where you come from goes beyond a month of celebration. For my family and I, celebrating our heritage comes in all shapes in sizes at different moments in our lives. Like watching movies about Latino culture with my kids, educating them on our history or simply sharing a traditional meal with friends and colleagues.
We are all different and have a unique background and Hispanic Heritage Month is simply about celebrating those differences.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you moved here?
It was difficult at times, especially during my teenage years. Children in my class used to remind me that I wasn’t from here. It was confusing. As a child, I couldn’t understand why I was being treated differently. Everyone has their own story of how they came to be, and when people take the time to understand that, we can create an environment where everyone feels like they belong.
How do you see the future of Latino people in the US?
I want my kids to grown up in a place that values difference and embraces inclusivity, like the culture that we have here at Gildan. There is so much diversity and somehow, we all come together perfectly. I think it’s because we all use our different strengths to make this a better workplace, which gives everyone a sense of belonging. It’s truly an incredible feeling.
I hope my kids experience that one day.
Gildan recognizes that one of its greatest strengths comes from the collective diversity of its organization. For Hispanic Heritage Month, Gildan honors more than 500 Hispanic employees located in their US operations and highlights many of the notable achievements made by Hispanic Americans of Influence in US history.