How family heritage influenced Élida Bautista’s career path

Élida Bautista, director of diversity & inclusion at Haas
Élida Bautista, director of diversity & inclusion at Haas

In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we’re featuring interviews with and profiles of members of the Latin American community. For this interview, we caught up with Élida Bautista.

Élida Bautista, director of diversity & inclusion at Haas, is one of five siblings who grew up in an extended Mexican family of mixed immigration status in Chicago. When she was 13, her family moved to Fillmore, a sleepy California agricultural town where her father, aunt, and uncle were farm workers.

At a young age, Bautista was bussed out of her Puerto Rican neighborhood to a multi-ethnic, better-resourced school—and her life from then on became an exploration of the culture, language, food, and games of her classmates. “I credit my Chicago roots with putting me on the diversity path,” says Bautista, who came to Haas from UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry, where she spent 15 years developing programs focused on social justice, diversity, and inclusion.

At Haas, she’s setting school-wide strategy for inclusion, diversity, and equity, and also works to support students, faculty, and staff to build an inclusive school climate.

We asked Bautista a few questions:

What are the roots of your heritage?

Both of my parents are from a rural town in Zacatecas, Mexico. Growing up, we spent our summers visiting family there. We joined in on summer traditions, and visited local archeological sites. Additionally, my father made it a point to take us to neighboring states to deepen our cultural exposure and understanding, simultaneously sharing his knowledge of Mexican history and indigenous ‘leyendas’ (oral history).

Elida with her niece
Élida with her niece celebrating Día de los Muertos.

What aspect of your cultural heritage do you enjoy sharing most with others?

As an adult, when I moved away from my family, I started to share traditions related to Día de los Muertos with my friends, such as setting up an altar or gifting them sugar skulls with their names, and explaining to them the meaning behind the holiday. I also enjoy sharing traditional Mexican cuisine with my friends. From simple ‘antojitos’ (traditional snacks) to laborious dishes from scratch, it’s a way of staying connected to my family’s traditions and sharing the joy of yummy food.

How did your heritage influence your career path?

My dad had a strong influence in instilling in me a sense of obligation toward my community and taking care of each other. When I was a teenager we moved from Chicago to an agricultural town in California. I witnessed how Mexican students were tracked out of college prep classes, and therefore had limited choices upon graduation. I was interested in becoming a psychologist to challenge these patterns and create more access to higher ed. There’s still a long way to go, but I see a lot of opportunity.