April 28, 2023

Border Crossings: A Latina Look at Cultural Agility and Sixth Sense Bridge Making + Natalie Alhonte

Border Crossings: A Latina Look at Cultural Agility and Sixth Sense Bridge Making + Natalie Alhonte

Alyssa: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Women of Ambition podcast. I'm your host, Alyssa Calder Hulme , and today we are going to be beginning a little bit of a shift in our podcast experience together where we've been examining ambition, how women...

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Alyssa: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Women of Ambition podcast. I'm your host, Alyssa Calder Hulme , and today we are going to be beginning a little bit of a shift in our podcast experience together where we've been examining ambition, how women experience that and talk about that. And we're gonna continue on that same path, but I really want to start looking at how culture, ethnicity, religion, all these different things that influence our socialization, affect the way that we think about ambition and manifest it.

And then some of the barriers that make it harder to be maybe. Who we want to be. And so today we're gonna look at a little bit a personal experiences of ambition, certainly, but also looking at it within the context of being a Latina in the United States. Today our guest is Natalie Alhonte .

[00:01:00] Natalie was born in Bogota, Columbia and moved to the US when she was six months old. During her upbringing, she always had a passion for languages, storytelling, culture, and intersection of public policy and entrepreneurship. She moved to Washington, DC in 2001 to attend American University in their school of international service.

After graduating, she began a career in global public affairs, including leading the work. For clients looking to build campaigns around ideas, not just products. After that, she moved to New York City to build a social good incubator working directly with Ariana Huffington, while in New York. She also hired, she was also hired to assist with all aspects of communication for the Brazilian government ahead of the World Cup and the Rio Olympics.

Wow. Natalie then returned to Washington to help build the Latin American. Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council for her former boss, Peter.

Natalie: Schechter

Alyssa: Schechter. Okay, thank you. She's now the director of strategy for the Latin America Practice [00:02:00] Group at Wilkie. Also founded by a Latin. Latina and an investor in immigrant foods, a gastro advocacy restaurant dedicated to celebrating the contribution of immigrants to the United States, and she resides in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Not too far from me with her husband son, Sammy and their two dogs. Thank you so much for being here today, Natalie.

Natalie: Thank you so much for having me, Alyssa.

Alyssa: Sorry If I, I messed up some of those words there. Reading and podcasting at the same time is rough. I'm used to just kind of going off the cuff.

Natalie: It's hard.

There's a lot of tongue twisters

Alyssa: I'm also very, very aware that you are trilingual, at least correct Portuguese, Spanish, and English, and so, I have very minuscule knowledge of those languages, but my pronunciation is horrible at this point. No. So please forgive me and correct me. Please correct me.

Natalie: Yes, absolutely.

I, yeah, we're here to learn from each other. [00:03:00] Absolutely. Yes.

Alyssa: Well, thank you so much for being willing to come on the show and talk about just this complex world that, that you live in and that you navigate and that you're so knowledgeable about. So to start, this is our first question we always ask, do you consider yourself to be ambitious?

Natalie: Oh, I love this question. And actually I think you know, when I received the invitation to be here with you today, it really set me on sort of a journey of sort of trying that word on. I think it's been a while since I've sort of categorized myself as ambitious, but, you know, really getting familiar with the, the definition and, and.

To, its very core and maybe not so much of the archetypes that maybe we have associated with it. I would definitely claim it. I, I would also say I'm very driven a funny story about that. I actually, if I had a memoir, I think I would have. Titled it Driven because I learned to drive so late in life.

I actually just learned [00:04:00] to drive six months ago after being, you know, a, a, a true and blue New Yorker. But yeah, so driven, ambitious are definitely things that I would say are part of, of who I am. Ambitious for myself, but also ambitious for others, I think is another thing that I would say. I, I'm one of those people who really.

Get so much in really success and. I've seen other people accomplish things like finding their own voice and seeing what they're capable of as well. But the one caveat I would say about ambition is that I would say yes, ambition, but not at any cost. Hmm. I think this is the new, the new learning for being my life.

 Especially as. I've become more multi-dimensional, becoming a mother becoming a wife, becoming, you know, trying to be a better friend and also just a better, you know, person who takes care of [00:05:00] myself is saying at ambition. But there has to be a very careful consideration about what the impact is on myself, on others.

 And definitely growing up in New York where there was a little bit more of a cutthroat culture being on the other side of what ambition on the negative side can look like I've always really prided myself in and to, and not being that type of person who will use anything and everything to get ahead.

 Despite sort of what the repercussions could be on others around me.

Alyssa: No, I, I really appreciate you saying that. I've been obviously thinking about this word for a long time now. And I've been tinkering kind of with like another kind of nuance to this word where a lot of people associate ambition with like that competitiveness and like being willing to step on other people to [00:06:00] succeed.

Especially cuz I, I've been reentering academia and so there is like a lot of competition. But. Valuing ambition for itself and valuing it for other people and having it be something that is in balance with other values like community and support and You know, your other values that can kind of balance it out, I think is a really, really important part to, to that aspect.

So thank you for sharing that. It's interesting to hear a lot of guests come on the show and they're like, yeah, you know, you asked me to be, to come on and I didn't know how I felt about that word, or I'm a little uncomfortable. Calling myself that. And I thought about it and it, it actually fits really well.

It's like, this is the why I'm like so interested in this word and this position cuz it's like there's so many layers to what it means and what it implies to people and relationally to other people. So like the part that I, that I'm tinkering with is [00:07:00] that, Ambition is like a drive to do or succeed that for whatever reason is beyond whatever is socially expected, given the context of wherever you're in.

So your family, your community, your country, your socioeconomic status, like. There's some kind of a relative piece to that that is informed by who we are. And so that's why like talking about culture is so important because that's where you really learn your values, and that's kind of where all these things get put in reference.

So I'm excited to dig into that more today.

Natalie: Yes, me too. No, that, I think that sounds right, and I think you're right. Sometimes we have to go back to the very root of a word and really to really understand it because there has been, there are words that are becoming so polarizing and they're misused, and language really matters, you know?

Mm-hmm. If if you have. Sort of a feeling about a word. I think it's important to go back and [00:08:00] say, is that really, is that how society, is that the messages that society has given me? Or is that really what, you know, is there a, a purity to that feeling? Is there something that's very connected to values that are part of that feeling?

And I think with ambition, it's, you know, it really, to me at least, it's related to courage. And courage, right? It comes from the Latin heart, right cord, which is heart and Spanish. And when you think about how much courage it takes to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, the willingness, the discipline when it comes to self-talk to, to get, to go above what's expected of you.

 I think it courage and, and sort of ambition or go hand in hand.

Alyssa: Yeah, I would, I completely agree with that. It's hard and it, it does take that extra bravery piece for sure. Okay, so [00:09:00] let's talk about your. Beginnings with ambition as a child, as a teen, do you, do you see pieces of that coming through in your early life?

Natalie: I, I, absolutely. So I think some of my family's favorite stories you know, about me are just about sort of that independent streak that I always had. Though, you know, in the Latin culture, we're very, we have, we're taught and socialized to be very different differential to our elders and mm-hmm to the people who have traditional relationships of power, sort of like teachers, et cetera.

 I think my parents did a really great job not sort of oppressing that independent spunk and streak in me to let me be sort of who I was. And I think, you know, some examples they like to tell about this are I had a ice coffee stand. A lot of children had traditional lemonade stands, [00:10:00] but I realized that our house, I, you know, I grew up in Brooklyn and our house was.

On the road to sort of main subway stop, and a lot of people would commute in the mornings to go to work. So in the summer, I used to wake up really early and we would brew fresh Colombian coffee and we would, I would go out with my little wooden table and I would sell ice, fresh ice coffee to the commuters as they would head to work.

 And I tried to have partners, you know, friends on the block be there with me, but nobody had the the drive to be up at. 7:00 AM to do that with me so quickly. You know, there was a rotation of partners that would come and go and nobody would stick. So I really loved the feeling of being there, being useful and being reliable to my.

 To, to my customers at a really, really young age. So that, I think it's, it's a fun story that [00:11:00] they tell, but I think that's definitely who I am. Someone who likes to be useful, have an impact and sort of doesn't really see anything as impossible for better or for worse. When I was 15, I started to sort of shift that I would say ambition to social good work.

And I started an organization when I was 15 years old called Teens for Humanity. And it was dedicated to raising funds and supplies for developing world, especially Latin America given, you know, that my ties. So it was an incredible experience and I think. That's sort of those leadership skills that you start to learn that are inside of you you know, would just continue to grow.

But it definitely never felt like anything was impossible. I just would see any task. And the world's my mom likes to say, the world's very small for me, and I feel like that's definitely been a part of[00:12:00] what's informed, sort of my decisions, my dreams, and my goals moving forward.

Alyssa: Those are fantastic examples.

Holy smokes. I love, I love to visualize you on the corner street hawking your iced coffee and then being in this teen for social justice, like, that's incredible.

Natalie: Well, thank you. It, it's, it's been an incredible life and so far and I'm so glad to be able to, Talk about, tell my story because it reminds me of these things.

You know, it's been a long time since I thought about them and really connected with them, but definitely inside of me lies a very, very ambitious little nine year old girl who never, who never went away, luckily.

Alyssa: That's awesome. Okay, so, and then obviously you've had this like really incredible career path that we're gonna talk about now.

 But have there been, like growing up, were there clashes with. Culturally I You're a first gener, not even a first generation or [00:13:00] what would you call yourself? An immigrant? Yeah. I, yeah,

Natalie: I'm definitely an immigrant. I'm somewhere in between. Yeah, first gen. I think it's, I sort of, I relate a lot to first generation just because I spent so much of my life in the us.

 And, but. Definitely my son likes to remind me that he's actually the only person born in the United States in our family, the point of pride for him. But yeah, I, I guess somewhere between first gen and, and immigrant. Mm-hmm.

Alyssa: And so navigating kind of that, like that transitional space, were there clash points there?

Were your parents just really supportive of you being yourself? What was that like as growing up?

Natalie: So what's really interesting is that my mom comes from a, you know, medium sized town in Columbia, in the coffee region. Pretty, you know rural I think is the wrong word, but it's sort of like what you [00:14:00] would picture, like the Napa Valley of columbia, beautiful. Rolling mountains. It's, you know, just a beautiful scenery. And my dad was born in Staten Island New York. So he's a New Yorker and up to Jewish parents. Okay. So. In my house. It was a, there was lots of paradox and contradictions. Okay. And mixed signals. So, you know, very typical sort of multi cultural, multi dimensional story.

So. I had, I'd say in my home, represented two cultures that were, they couldn't be more different in terms of the value system, styles of communication, sort of the way that sort of the worldview and they were all happening. In real time in my house growing up, I also had the benefit of growing up with my grandparents.

My [00:15:00] Jewish grandparents lived living up one floor above us. Oh wow. So they had a lot of influence as well in, I would say on the second floor. But my mom ran our home like a Columbian embassy within our home. It was very I would say You know, the culture of Columbia was very present. It was in the food, it was in our traditions.

It was in the way that she ensured that we were connected to our roots and we understood where we came from. And she just, it was. Really important to her that we felt fully Colombian. Instead of sort of half and half, we were 100% Colombian and 100% American at the same time. So I don't know what kind of math that adds up to, but that was sort of how, how I was raised.

 And I would say that through [00:16:00] that it was, The ex, through that experiment, you would see that there was a lot of mixed messages about what success really looked like. And, and that also had to do with the extended family. So, you know, in my in my household, there was definite co cohesion. But I would say that when we would look at the extended family education was so important on the, you know, Jewish immigrant side and especially given the history.

But then in Latin America it was much more about sort of the markers of success were about you know, physical beauty about thinness. About, you know, what, who were you in your social standing? Are you, are you going to be an eligible candidate for good marriage? It was a very mixed bag when it came to that, so there was a lot of pressure both on the side of.[00:17:00]

You know, career side, but also on the family side, all happening, I would say a hundred percent volume all at once. So that was sort of the environment in which, you know, I was raised and it taught me to really decode and question mm-hmm. What my own values are, my own thinking. But it also taught me a lot about how strong that intergenerational sort of programming can be in our own lives.


Alyssa: Wow. That sounds like quite the crucible for self-discovery and. Watching your parents, I would assume, navigate that with lots of other family members around, and then you getting to go and be your own person as well.

Natalie: Absolutely. I think that it really wasn't until college, until that I had the vocabulary to understand what.

What all of that, you know, all those mixed messages really meant. [00:18:00] And I had the privilege really of studying with, I would say one of the fathers of cultural anthropology, and his name was Dr. Weaver at American University. And he really taught. Us all about what culture shock looks like. Mm-hmm.

 And how it's not just when you go abroad, but if you're living in a multicultural society. If you are multicultural, how the, how experiencing culture shock can really impact you and you're sort of psychological framework, long term and really all the resilience that it gives you. Because, you know, I, there's by no means do I want.

You know, the takeaway to be like being multicultural actually is traumatic. It's not, I mean, it, it gives you so many magical powers. But at the same time, if you don't understand sort of the language around it it, it can. It can be challenging. And so I was grateful to have [00:19:00] the language around understanding and mapping culture and understanding the different components of what makes a culture.

I think in the US we're not really even that aware that we have a culture. And so it always shocks people that we have one, but we do, you know, and, and I think that understanding what you know, what those components can really help us. Empowers us to be to, to take, to make the most out of being able to navigate many different cultures.


Alyssa: Thank you. One of the things that I really wanna focus on today is that kind of culture crossing. I, I'm calling it border crossing because we're talking to you, a Latina woman who literally crossed a border to come here. A lot of your work is international but also as a metaphor of navigating different spaces, navigating that liminal in between space.

 [00:20:00] Maybe translating between two very different. Social, cultural, linguistical locations, value systems. That is, that I, I think of it as like a superpower in a way that clearly you had to earn and was a lot of work. But it gives you an ability to, like you're saying, see nuance navigate spaces, a code shift Mentally, linguistically, you know, so many, so many different things like that.

So let's talk a little bit about how that has impacted your career and your work. I feel like every single point on your resume is a fantastic example of this. But is there, is there a space where you can kind of talk about that, that border crossing experience?

Natalie: Absolutely, and I think you know, when I was in college I sort of I knew I wanted to do something international, and I knew that that was [00:21:00] what sparked my joy, was to learn about other cultures and to learn about other ways of life.

And just had this insatiable hunger for international things. I mean music and, and food. And I, and I knew I had this ability to be a bridge because I had done it my whole life. I had. Acted that way since I could remember to really help. Sort of be an intermediary when maybe, you know, there's this image that I like where you're holding a beach ball and on the left side it's white and the right side it's black.

And you know, both people are screaming at the top of their lungs that what? It's white or black and you're holding it at the middle. So you could sort of see the delineation of both. And that I think, has been a metaphor that I've sort of used throughout my life. And it also gave me the resilience to sort of enter into this.

International relations space with global affairs [00:22:00] space, which traditionally is, there's a pretty high bar of entry into those spaces in DC and there's a lot of elitism associated with it. It's a lot about the connections of who you know and what private or prep school you went to and you know who you're father golfs with, and I came to DC with zero of those things, you know, absolutely none of them except all of the knowledge of the that my parents really gave me about my history and where I came from. And I remember. You know, I got hired by this very elite public affairs firm who worked on crisis communications, international campaigns, and really high stakes issues.

And my first week just being completely overwhelmed by just how much I didn't know, even though I had already been in DC for four years and lived and breathed [00:23:00] it just. Felt completely like an imposter. And I know that this is something that comes up a lot here on the podcast. Yes, it does.

Remember at that time I was working as an assistant to one of the lead partners and he he, I was in there talking about something and I think he said to me something like, you know, I don't want you scheduling me at this specific time. And I said, you know, okay. But he was very mad at me because I had made a mistake on his schedule, and he said I don't need, you're okay.

And then I just looked at him and I said, no. I say okay, as if I understand the information. Mm-hmm. And one of the other senior partners heard it and like went running to say, actually, I think she's gonna survive. I had this grit inside of me. This fire. Good for you. So this senior partner tells that story a lot about, [00:24:00] you know, this the fire that it really takes.

To be underestimated time and time and time again. And having to look in the eyes of the person that, or under that is your underestimate and not go down, but to just rise above. And it's just something that happens at a moment. But it is, I think, the most crucial thing that I learned because I learned that nothing defines me but me.

 And if people don't really understand who I am and what are capable of, they just have to wait. They have and they will see and not just, you know, I think that it was, that is definitely a superpower that I got from being misunderstood. People never knew where, where to put me growing up. You know, she's not Latina, but she is, but she speaks Spanish, but she was born in Colombia, but she looks Russian.

Like, who are you? What are you? So I was used to. Being misunderstood. And so I take it upon my speech to, to help people [00:25:00] really get to know who I am and what I'm capable of. And so those are the beginnings in public affairs. And just, I grew a lot by being myself. I didn't conform I would say in many ways, which unfortunately is, I think.

 The story of what is asked of many people who are not traditional or underrepresented in some way. But I really pushed hard to, to go against the grain and there was a space for me to, to be myself. And as my sort of career progressed and the people within the firm saw how I was able to connect with clients.

It almost created a boomerang effect where they started to respect me because they could see how I had the decoding gift that you were talking about where mm-hmm. I knew if there was someone who wants to go straight to business, you go straight to [00:26:00] business. If there was someone who wants to get to know you because there's a trust element that needed to happen before you jump straight in, you give them that.

You're generous with yourself, you're generous with your time, and you allow them to get to know you on their time, not on what you expect is the timing that it should happen. And I think it was the. This sort of ability to understand those nuances that helped me continue to grow and to manage your position and then to be able to build my own things when I was at the Huffington Post and then being asked to come back to DC by that same senior partner who yell.

To come back and help him build a a Latin America think tank in dc. The agility of being able to climb up and climb down constantly were I think things that really have served me well in my career.

Alyssa: I love that example. That's so [00:27:00] fantastic. So, so many of the, the things that you just mentioned are topics that I've been thinking with.

So that like being, being able to jump between places, but then also weaving between them to kind of create where you get to exist as yourself, even if other people. Can't place you like you're creating your own self. And then being, being a bridge maker and having it be this unique thing that you are bringing to the table because of your values and your, your upbringing and all these things that you have that.

Actually helps you in your career and in your personal ambitions, but, but comes from like this culturally located place of community and nuance and like you are able to see and sense things that other people can't, who haven't had to stretch themselves really.

Natalie: That's right. And yeah. Oh, and I think that obviously, you know [00:28:00] those are sort of the, the positive baggage that I bring to the table.

But I, you know, there are also things that I struggle with and I think that those are also a big part of Understanding the, the importance of being humble, of looking at life as an eternal learner. Because you know, if you're trilingual, you're always gonna mess up a certain sentence or you're always going to like, make something feminine that's masculine and you, this is a life log.

You're never gonna be fully fluent, in one language. So I think that's also helped me understand that To understand people, not just by how they communicate in maybe their second or third or fourth language. And, and to be humble about being able to learn from everyone. Cause I think that there's, I've been on the other side where I've seen microaggressions and I've seen people being [00:29:00] underestimated just because maybe English is their second language or they're not able to express as fluently as they can in their native language. So I think that's also the other side as, as well.

Alyssa: So how, How do you build resilience to being complete, to being mis can't even think of the right word, but being misunderstood. Underestimated not being legible to people because they can't categorize you. I am sh I know from my personal, smaller experiences with that, that that's really exhausting. So, Can you speak to that a little bit?

Natalie: Well, absolutely. I mean, obviously I don't wanna paint the situation with rose colored glasses, right? Because we look at the current state of sort of Latinas in the United States, right? And we see the the mount that we represent as it. Relates to the population versus positions of [00:30:00] leadership.

 Looking at the C-Suite for example, I mean I wrote down, just jotted down these numbers just because I think they're so super important to talk about, but, you know, Latinos represent 62.5 million people, right? So that's 19% of the population. But when you look at the amount of people in senior leadership, I mean, it goes down.

Substantially. So 2% of women are in senior leadership positions are in the board in the boardroom. And, and this are like Forbes, you know, the, the biggest company is ranked by Forbes and 1% if you look just at corporate boards and not at positions of leadership. So there are, there is a real problem, you know, in our society and, and in the way that the game is structured.

For the ascension of Latinas. So I think that that's really important to say and[00:31:00] it's important to sort of, to look at what the, you know, kind of what's against us. So we're swimming upstream and mm-hmm. How exhausting it can be. So I would say like, kind of life. Taught me resilience. It it was every time I was not invited, you know, to a pitch meeting or that I had done all the work for and I had to advocate for myself to be there.

Or when a client, you know, assumed something went wrong, but hadn't actually looked at his or her email to show that it was, it had been sent and he. These little things where people just automatically assume that you are the one that messed up because they haven't seen enough people that look or sound like you in positions of authority.

There's just this thing that happens in their brain when things go wrong. And I think so it is sort of just life that. That teaches us to be resilient. But I think the other big thing, [00:32:00] and this definitely comes from the culture, is the sense of humor. You know, to, there's nothing that can break a tense and difficult moment that you know, nothing that can do that.

Like a sense of humor. And that's something I learned from my culture and it's something that I take with me because. You know it, unless we are able to sort of laugh at these terrible things that happen, I mean, maybe not right away, but eventually with communities of people who have who have built things alongside us.

I think it's really difficult and participating in spaces like this one, Alyssa, where you, that you're building where people can come and tell their story. I mean, these are the ways that we can sort of take a step back, realize that. What happens to us is not personal. It's not really about, though it feels so personal in the moment.

It's not personal because it's a common experience that so many of us have, and you don't have to be, Latinas have experienced this, right? Mm-hmm. I'm sure if you have 10 women all around [00:33:00] in this, in this conversation with us, that everyone could tell a thousand stories just like mine. So I think that's also really important is to, to remind us that if we celebrate who we are, You know, the way my mom celebrated our culture and our house, if we celebrate who we are and somebody doesn't understand or value it, to know that the problems with them and not with us.

It's not that our culture is somehow wrong, it's that person just hasn't had the pleasure of understanding our culture and getting to know it better.

Alyssa: Thank you. I think that's, that's really true and it's again, how community fits into to achieving, to doing, to building whatever it is that we feel driven to do.

And it's, it's such an essential part because. We can't do it alone. I dunno, maybe maybe [00:34:00] a white guy can do it alone. A straight white guy can do it alone, maybe. But more likely there's an invisible community that of support that is not being represented. But those of us who aren't in that dominant.

Position of, of privilege and power. We need our community and we need that support to kind of get through it. And I love humor as one of the, one of the tools to, to healing and to health and normalizing something that we're being told is so abnormal.

Natalie: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alyssa: Alright. So maybe let's talk a little bit more about the specific areas that you've worked in. You've done, so you've done crisis response work, like you said, you and we talked, mentioned briefly the World Cup and the Olympics. And you were also a TV commentator for us Latin American relations. So you're doing all of this [00:35:00] work with these different places and different value systems. How, like, like I just talking even politically about different countries and navigating those relationships what has that been like to hold maybe two value systems and have to like, make them legible to each other?


Natalie: no, I think that's a really, really good question. And, you know, I can talk a little bit first about the world cup and the Olympics work. So when I was in New York and I was a new mom I had. A conversation with a former colleague and you know, was really telling her about how burnt out I was feeling.

I mean, one of the big characteristics of crisis communication is that you have to be on 24 7 and having to be a new mom. I really felt like it wasn't it wasn't a, I couldn't give 100%. To really anything [00:36:00] and I didn't feel like I was I felt like I was failing, you know? And, and I, I felt like I was sort of the reputation that I had as like the person that was always on it.

I just couldn't be that person anymore. And, This friend said to me well, why don't you work with me on this project? The Brazil government is looking for someone to help promote these beautiful destinations in Brazil. And I said, oh my gosh, this sounds like the easiest job on earth. Like, why?

You know, is this real? Is this real? Like, and so, well, of course, you know, nothing is ever as good as it sounds because. The largest protests in Brazilian in Brazil's history after the fall of the dictatorship were catalyzed by the overruns in the World Cup and the Olympics. And we were sort of the only us leg, arms and legs on the ground in many of [00:37:00] these spaces.

And we thought we were gonna be there, you know, talking about beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro. But we were preparing like. Crisis communication decks and sort of media audits about what's being said. And I was accompanying a minister, the minister of sports minister towards them, to the editorial board meetings at the New York Times, at the Wall Street Journal to talk about, you know, stadiums and man, and why there is one and, and just, I had to fire a translator on the spot in one of those meetings because she was just translating the minister.

With really just messing up the translation and just like these things, you know, I kept thinking, where's the fun? When is the fun gonna start? Cause this was not fun. This was way more difficult than I had imagined. But it was an amazing experience, of course, as everything is looking back, you know, really to understand.

Sort of the power of civil society and having [00:38:00] their voice heard especially in democracies and how important those those protests were to Brazil. So that was a moment where I would say I was kind of thrown into the deep end into, in a really. Amazing moment in Brazil's history. And I think that has helped me really understand like the power of social media the power to, to create movements because WhatsApp and Twitter were so such a big part of kind of building that social movement and really understand the inner workings of a government a lot better.

So that's definitely an example of, I would say where you, I I was definitely buckling my seatbelt in, in that situation, but it was, it was a really intense, but great time to learn. Mm-hmm.

Alyssa: Sounds complicated and [00:39:00] exciting and exhausting all at once.

Natalie: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. My Portuguese definitely got a lot better after that writing and reading a lot, and Portuguese and so that's always a great, a great outcome.

Well, that's wonderful.

Alyssa: So. If working in these different spaces with these different groups of people, do you see, do you see the nuance in, in value in maybe how ambition is perceived in different places in Latin America versus the United States? Can you talk a little bit about that, kind of maybe on a more broad level, and then if there is a gender component that you saw, I'd appreciate hearing your perspective.

Natalie: Absolutely. Well, I think what's really interesting, and I think a lot of people consider themselves, you know, Latin Americanists They have trouble with Brazil. They have trouble sort of becoming a part of the ingroup in Brazil because the country of [00:40:00] Brazil is such a massive place and it's been sort of because it speaks Portuguese and speaks Spanish and sort of has a unique history and culture, it really is isolated.

From the rest of the world. So the amount of, I would say trust that a person that is working in Brazil can can obtain just by understanding the culture, understanding the language, the basic customs is incredible. It's not the same as the rest of, of Latin American in many ways because it isn't Americanized.

Mm-hmm. So like Columbia, we've always had a lot of connection. Mexico, you go to Mexico, there's always been a ton of connection. Between the United States and and you know, better and worse, right? There's been mm-hmm. Negative impacts that the US have ha has had, but also it's just, there's a very close relationship.

Brazil is different. It's very isolated in many ways. So I would say that taking the time to really understand the culture, [00:41:00] and I was lucky, I studied abroad in Brazil. My husband is Brazilian, so that's another big component of understanding the culture. But. I think there is a, there's a coup, there's so many levels.

I mean, you and I, you know, we were talking before about the sort of high context, low context cultures, the to be cultures, the to-do cultures, you know?

Alyssa: Do you wanna share that a little bit? Because it, it fits so well with what I'm re learning and researching right now.

Natalie: Yes. Yeah. So when I was you know, Learning more about cultural anthropology.

I think one of the coolest ways and, and I think there's more contemporary work on this as well there's a book called The Culture Map that I think has gained a lot of popularity is really understanding different cultures and sort of where they fall on broad questions. And these two broad questions are, Sort of the, something called a high context culture in a low context culture or a to be or todo culture.

So what that [00:42:00] means is you know, there are, if you're in a part of a to-do culture, it's really about efficiency. It's about sort of what you achieve. It's about sort of an individual perspective of achievement. And it's very low context, meaning that, Even if you were dropped in that country and you're doing business for the first time in that country and you were someone who sort of was pretty literal and direct, you would do really well in that country.

 In terms of relationships as well, when you are looking at, you know, the US as a part of that, I would say Germany I think is a pretty, when we're looking at architecture, He's always sort of looked at at Switzerland. On the other side of that are the to be cultures or the high context cultures where these are cultures that have a lot of gray.

Lines, there's a lot of subtexts, a lot of focus on [00:43:00] where, who are your, who is your family? You know, where did you sort of, where do you fall in like in sort of the social casts within a country. And those are the cultures where it takes a long time to really understand the nuance to be effective at communications because there's so many unwritten rules.

 About what you can do and what you can't do. So I would say Brazil is very much, and all of Latin America is on that sort of the high context to to be scale. But Brazil, I would think, I think is at the very top of that because they have so much of their own way of develop of, you know, sort of. Their own rules and customs that are unique to Brazil.

There's no other places that you'll be able to find it. And those who don't really understand the culture have a lot of trouble being effective in it. And those who take the [00:44:00] time, you know, even to learn to sort of basic Portuguese about the differences between the different regions, the history understanding where you give one kiss and where you give two; we use our small protocol type. Things, but they make a huge difference in a culture like that where your relationships and sort of who you are on that scale mean everything. And I think that it's important to say that both cultures are both humane and inhumane at the same time. Because in a to-do culture, it's all about.

What you achieve, it's not really about who you are, but in a to be culture, it's really the hard part is social mobility. You know, if you're born into a certain class or a cast, you know it's hard to move up. It's hard to be seen as other because you are sort of as ascribed of value based on sort of where you fall in that. scale. So those are super important nuance I think that I try to keep in in mind when I [00:45:00] am doing business internationally. And where I, when I'm working, collaborating across borders is to really understand those nuances and to, to continue to learn. You know, one tip I always give to people is just do a Google search, A Google news search for that country.

 The day before you talk to somebody from that country and see what's going on in the news. Take five minutes. I think as Americans we're, we're not really conditioned to do that. But it's, it just goes such a long way to be able to build relationships for those high context cultures when you at least take the time to know.

 A little bit about what's going on, what's current, and ask questions and be curious. I think people, it really goes a long way to building those relationships. Yeah.

Alyssa: That's so interesting. That's a really, really good tip. I'm wondering if, you know if you know the answer to this question, maybe you don't, but how the [00:46:00] different indigenous populations kind of affect.

The differences in the regions. And then of course, you know how colonization has kind of shaped the culture of different countries and different regions. Can you speak to that at all?

Natalie: I mean, there are, I can speak more in terms of the presence of sort of Generally right now that there's, yeah, I would say a moment where we are celebrating indigenous culture in a way that we really haven't before.

I think that in our minds, we were all, we all felt very separate. You know, like we, we would learn about these indigenous cultures, the Inca, the Mayans, the Aztecs, and we would look at them. Right in Brazil UA Paraguay, and we would sort of look at and our, you know, our indigenous in the United States where We would see each of these cultures as a really, a small and isolated [00:47:00] pocket.

But I think as people have studied them more, and I think John Zamo, if you haven't seen his sort of one man show when he talks about this, you know, 97% of the d of indigenous cultures from the top of the Americas to the very bottom. Is the same. So we have this unique shared culture. Though the co obviously there's nuances, but think that there was, it's a very sort of colonist and European mindset to see each of them as unique and separate because it takes away the power from the holistic sort of story about this continent and about sort of the indigenous culture. And I think some countries have been really great about conserving and celebrating the history. I think no cult culture has been great at it. I, I should say. But there, yes, yes. Let's be [00:48:00] clear. We've all been terrible,

Alyssa: but we've all been terrible. Some have maybe been worse for longer.

Natalie: Absolutely.

And you know, you, if you look at, there's this beautiful museum in Mexico City called the Mu Museum of Anthropology. And it's this beautiful, giant, gorgeous museum dedicated to understanding the roots of the Mayan societies and really teaching an Aztec and really teaching people about that history.

Our history, right? If, if you are a part of the Americas, it's, it's, it's a collective experience to understand who we are. And so I would love to see that in the United States, and there's a beautiful Smithsonian museum. But I don't think that we have this widespread understanding of how we connect in terms of our shared history with our indigenous people and.

In some countries, like [00:49:00] if you look in the southern cone the eradication of the indigenous populations was. Almost absolute, you know, it's genocide. And so each of these countries has had their own unique story with, with sort of celebrating those roots or sweeping it under the rug, as I think probably happens a lot.

 But it, in it is influenced, I mean, I think. Right now, I think it was a couple of years ago, the first time that Vogue, Mexico had an indigenous woman on the cover cause of Roma, the movie Roma. And I mean, it was a huge uproar. I mean, in a great way because. A lot of people didn't say, didn't realize we had never seen that before.

Mm-hmm. You know, and, and the lack of social mobility I think has been, it's been really damaging. But I think that, you know, in terms of your question about sort of how that has [00:50:00] shaped our identity Countries that celebrate and understand those roots I think are much more connected to, to who we all are, you know, as a collective Americas and in Columbia, I can speak to that.

There is this sort of movement now to Bring forward a lot of the replicas of indigenous jewelry. I know that not all of your readers can see it, but I'm actually wearing one right now where we have beautiful gold pieces in Columbia you know, it was called, right? Mm-hmm. Because of the gold.

So much gold came from Columbia and the we're starting to to sort of assimilate that. That celebration of indigenous culture into you know, quote unquote mainstream, which was European culture for so long, and get curious and, and get, and I hope to see that [00:51:00] continue. I definitely don't think we're there by any means, but especially if you look at sort of political power, right?

Mm-hmm. How, how European white male. It is. But there are, I think, beautiful social movements that are happening across the Americas to sort of tell those stories and to and to better understand them. Yeah. Thank you.

Alyssa: Yeah, they're certainly a long way to go there, and I think we are better when we embrace our history and open our eyes to it because we have to be able to understand the ongoing effects.

Of our, of my place. Like I have mostly colonizer ancestry and some indigenous ancestry. And it's, it's a lot to confront for myself and for my family. But denying that and pretending that I'm just here of my own volition is just, it's totally ignorant and it just perpetuates [00:52:00] ongoing harm, and I lose out on the beauty and the, the dreaming and the, the community and the connection and things that I, I am now being able to reincorporate with that, like wider, wider eyes, a wider embracive truth.

Natalie: Absolutely. And, and we're so much better when we know our history, you know? Mm-hmm. And. I think our ancestors, they want us to know, they want us to know the history.

 And because if we are, we stand on their shoulders. I think that's a really important thing to because I think so many of us, we have oppressive and oppressor oppressed And oppressor genetics. You know, and if we're, if you are on the America's continent, there's going to be, it's, it's a mixed bag. But I think the more we know, the more we don't repeat history hopefully.[00:53:00]

Alyssa: Yeah. I'm with you there. And that's kind of where I'm coming at this project of ambition, of trying to figure out like, what does it mean to different people? What does it mean to different cultures? Is it. Competitive have to step on other people to achieve. Can it be something that it is communally beneficial?

And I think it can, but we have to really unpack a lot of that, like generational trauma and colonizer mindset and the ignorance that we've allowed and supported and that we're all, you know, complicit into one degree or another. Cuz. There are a lot of toxic things that originally were really beautiful or, or are really healthy in other spaces that we can reincorporate and heal with and learn from.

So thank you for sharing all of your experiences today. Oh,

Natalie: it's my pleasure. It's been such a pleasure speaking with you today, and I think this project is such an [00:54:00] important one. I hope we'll all own the word ambition a little bit more in healthy way, in a good way, in a healthy way,

Alyssa: in balance with our, our values and our community and all those things.

 Absolutely. In closing, is there anything that you would like to say to ambitious Latinas out there speaking to them directly maybe?

Natalie: Yes, Absolutely. I mean, I think that. The, the, our time is coming. I think if we just look at the demographics, if we look at sort of the amazing influence that we've been able to have on it, on this country as Latinos living in the us our time is coming to really to shine.

So it's gonna be, It's gonna be upon us to be ready as, as that moment appears. And I just wanna give a huge shout out to Julissa ak, who's [00:55:00] a Read, who's a book that, who wrote a book called, you Sound like a White Girl. I'm currently reading that. I suggest it and I suggest America Ferreras Ted Talk so much for those who haven't listened to it, to really understand our superpower as Latinas.

 And just, you know, thank you for having me here today.

Alyssa: Thank you so much. Oh, so, so good. Do you have any current projects or things you wanna plug? I think you have a restaurant going on right now.

Natalie: Yeah. So I am an investor in a restaurant in Washington DC called Immigrant Food. Our flagship is half a block from the White House, and obviously it wasn't a coincidence that we opened it during the Trump administration when there was so much negative rhetoric about immigrants forgetting that we are all immigrants if you're not indigenous.

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And we're all here. So no, definitely if you're in Washington DC check out immigrant food. Also if [00:56:00] you are you'd like to connect, so please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, Natalie ote on LinkedIn and just thank you so much for having me here. Awesome.

Alyssa: Thank you. That is, that's a quite the, the delicious, ambitious little pump to end on.

So thank you so much. And yeah, thank you. I am sure everyone is just gonna be so thrilled to listen to. So thank you so much for coming on. Thank you.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Women of Ambition podcast. Natalie was such a fantastic guest. We covered so many different topics and ideas that I wanna continue to expand on and explore throughout our podcast time together, especially as we look at how social locations change the way we view the world, they inform our values and inform.

What resources we have access to. So those are some of the things we're gonna continue to look at on the podcast. If you would like to read a transcription of the podcast or share it that way, I'm going to figure out a way to add the transcription to my [00:57:00] website, women of admission podcast.com. This will allow guests to go back and annotate and edit anything that they wanna clarify or comment on.

So if that's helpful to you, please let me know. It is quite a labor. Of work to transcribe. So I'm gonna try and do that more moving forward if that is helpful to anybody out there. So just let me know, drop me a line if that's something that is beneficial. You can also interact more with the podcast on Instagram. My handle is Women of Admission podcast. So check us out there and we will continue to have some really awesome guests moving forward and some new and exciting things over the next couple of months. So look out for those. Thanks so much for listening.