Dustdevil Diversity Spotlight: Alejandro Maza
This is part of a series of interviews highlighting diversity at TAMIU. On the occasion of Pride Month, this interview features Alejandro Maza, Manager of Customer Service Operations for PepsiCo International in Monterrey, México. He earned his BA in Communication and minor in Marketing from TAMIU in 2008.
Advocating for LGBTQ+ Citizens' Rights, Excelling as a Father
Tell us about yourself. Where are you originally from and why you chose to attend TAMIU?
I am originally from Nuevo Laredo, México. I grew up on the U.S.-México border, always exposed to the richness of cultures of México, the United States and Cuba (because of my family heritage). TAMIU was the place I wanted to be as its multicultural environment was always featured in the media. That caught my eye since day one and the process of admission was very friendly as I received support from academic advisors and the University. When I was admitted, I had the opportunity to live the full multicultural experience at TAMIU. I’ve met and networked with fellow students from all over the world, and that resulted in life-long friendships.
Tell us what you have been up to since graduating from TAMIU?
I received an amazing opportunity to work at a global food company, which has allowed me to travel, learn, meet amazing leaders and develop myself. I was also able to form something I had always dreamed of: my family. Together with my husband and daughter, we are committed to change the world by providing education about diversity and inclusion.
Can you share with us the story of your advocacy work within the LGBTQ+ community and the impact it has had so far?
It all started in 2013 when my daughter got expelled from school for having two dads. I was traveling for work between the U.S. and México at that time and I enrolled Alejandra in a private school in México, always being upfront about being a diverse family. After a month of going back and forth with them, the school chose homophobia. For us as a family, that was the start of our journey as activists, doing fundamental work to change the world into a better place.
As the discrimination case received worldwide attention, we realized that this kind of exposure and visibility for our family was key to change minds and educate people about what a diverse family is.
We have gained numerous recognitions and were featured in print, radio and TV. Our work has been recognized and we have received several awards. I have had the opportunity to reach many people as a speaker in the prestigious, world-renowned TEDx Talks in Spanish.
I also provide consultations to corporations such as Johnson and Johnson, PepsiCo, Boston Consulting Group as well as the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey to make the workplace inclusive and diverse.
Can you tell us about your published children’s book and how it originated?
The book, “Mi familia, como la tuya” (My family is like yours) comes from a place of love and the desire to reach as many readers as possible in order to showcase different types of families within our society.
As my family entered its second full year into fighting for equal rights and equal marriage, we realized that being a diverse family, especially one with two dads, still caused people to question many things about same-sex parenthood. So, we decided to write a children’s book with amazing illustrations to explain diversity within families in a friendly way for children to be able to understand. We all know that children are born into this world with no prejudice and what they learn is passed on to them from adults, so what better way than to educate through a piece of children’s literature that can also be read by parents and everyone else within a household.
How has the book been received by readers and where has it taken you?
The first year of promoting the book has been a great journey, and up to date, we are still receiving invitations to talk about it in public and now, offer virtual readings. It is really a project of passion, which was really difficult to pitch to big publishers because of the topic and because it is a children’s book, but this was not an obstacle for us as we funded the project completely ourselves.
We are currently working on our second children’s book, which depicts our real-life story together as a family. The biggest message of this book is that the common denominator of all families is love.
How do you feel your contributions impact the community and the world around you?
I believe my family’s visibility and struggle as two gay men raising our daughter through the public eye has given many the opportunity to know more about diversity and new ways to be a father in which a man can also take care, give love an nourish instead of traditionally being the sole family provider, portraying no emotions at all.
Before we went public, out of the closet for a second time as a family, we realized there were no visible references of same-sex families that we can look up to. Diverse families have always existed but they are not often visible in society, so I like to believe we paved the way for others to show their pride as a diverse family, out and proud.
Can you share some of your hobbies?
Doing charity and philanthropy work is fundamental to our daily life as a family and being together in rallies to defend our rights whenever possible. We also enjoy spending time together at home, watching movies and eating popcorn. I love culture and being able to travel with my family is something on my favorite list to do, especially a tropical place with gorgeous beaches.
Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
I can tell you there are three inspirations in my life. My mother. Without her, I wouldn’t be the man that I am today. My husband, who has pushed me as far as I could to reach my potential as a good and decent human being and my daughter, who is my biggest inspiration to do everything I do in my life and fight for a better world so she can live in it.
Tell us what you are doing today academically, career or life-wise and your future plans.
As of now, I am committed to my career and professional goals and to be an openly LGBTQ+ director and then VP who has always been out and open since day one in the corporate world.
I continue to assess companies and employees in LGBT+ related topics for inclusive workplaces. I also keep writing and enjoying my amazing life as a Dad of an amazing daughter.
Why is Pride Month meaningful to you and what aspects of it would you like for everyone to know, recognize or remember?
Pride month is part of our heritage and legacy as a society. As we know, on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a meeting place for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. At the forefront of those protests were trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Pride itself owes its very existence to a protest, and it took radical acts of change to just start the conversation about LGBTQ+ issues in the world, a conversation that continues to this day.
I believe these are interesting times. As Pride and the Black Lives Matter movement converge this year, it is fundamental to remember that the LGBTQ+ rights movement owes its existence to protests led by people of color. It’s important to honor and remember that now, more than ever.
How do you think people in the LGBTQ+ community can continue to increase their visibility and impact here and in the world?
I believe visibility and being out there and sharing about who we are is pivotal. As more people are exposed to our reality, they will begin to see that love is love and that it is ridiculous that in this day and year, 2020, we are still fighting to get equal rights all over the world. It should be guaranteed, just as we pay taxes and perform other civic duties as citizens.
Why do you think diversity is important at university campuses, the workplace and overall?
Having a diverse community within the workplace, university campuses and in general is always important. There is so much we can contribute to this society. As we all know, diversity is fundamental in an inclusive society which we are aiming to be.
Also, is it very important to have strict, non-discriminatory policies, and that LGBTQ+ members are assured that they are able to be themselves without any repercussions. For example, we should be able to get that coveted promotion and be considered for a scholarship opportunities. It is proven that happy people deliver better results. They also show a stronger commitment to their workplaces and deliver top results. All of that can be achieved by always being oneself in any environment one is in.