Last October, I was honored to write an article about the Borinqueneers, a battalion formed by thousands of young Puerto Ricans that served in the US Army during World War I, World War II and the Korean conflict.
Their major struggle was not so much related to their bravery in the battlefield –they were known for their fierce and relentless fighting spirit– but for being victims of discrimination within the US Army. They were all men and all Puerto Ricans, and they faced the most perilous battles in each war. Women were not allowed to sign up for the Army at that time.
“Fortunately, not only women participate in the Army today but we also have leaders such as Brigadier Commander José Burgos, who understands that giving women the opportunity to take charge of leadership positions empowers them, inspires them, and allows and helps them to grow,” said Dr. Irene Zoppi Rodríguez, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and the first Deputy Commander in the U.S. Army Reserve in Puerto Rico.
With more than four decades of military, academic and professional experience, Dr. Zoppi also facilitates graduate courses in education and business for Strayer University. As a college professor, she brings her passion of empowerment and thought leadership to her students.
“As a teacher, I try to inspire young women and encourage them to grow to be ‘more’,” she said.
More, I asked?
“Every human being has a purpose in life. Many discover it at the end of their lives, when it is too late, becoming a wasted opportunity. We cannot put time in a box so it is up to us to realize our purpose in life as soon as we can. By discovering that purpose, we can fulfill our destiny within that purpose,” Dr. Zoppi said.
She explained that most people understand they need a roadmap for a vacation or a trip but many do not have roadmaps for their lives, their education and all the challenges that come with discovering that purpose. Most expect other people to tell them where to go or how to get there.
“Latinas particularly have Superpowers they are not aware of, and they need to find them soon in life. We don’t dress with ‘capas’ like Batman or Superman but we wear our confidence to confront many personal and professional challenges,” she said.
These are Superpowers Dr. Zoppi believes Latinas have:
- Tenemos audacia (being audacious): Our internal fire overshadows all expectations of how we “should” be by breaking barriers and pushing up to face challenges, such as those trying to reunite their immigrant families.
- Somos fatales (being fatalists): We love watching telenovelas with our mothers, grandmothers and daughters, crying and understanding the struggle of the protagonist.
- Somos multifuncionales (being multifunctional): Without fear, we perform our functions at the best level and all at once. We cook, we dance, we sing, we work, we ask for permission and we apologize; and we do it in different languages too!
- Tenemos esperanza (having hope) We have the ability to do things with hope, always thinking what is next in our journey. We come to this country with the hope that we will find more for our families,
- Somos serviciales (fulfilling the needs of others) We are always making sure there is food for everybody, and that is not only in our kitchens!
All these superpowers make Latinas transactional and transformational leaders, according to Dr. Zoppi. “Not only we do the work, giving ourselves totally, but also we pass on those skills to everybody around us, at work, the family and the community.
So, she recommends, the sooner the better, discover your Superpowers and use them!