Family and community sources of Lopez's inspiration and pride

TUCSON, AZ, Oct. 6, 2020 — Tucson office Underwriting Manager Evette Lopez was born and raised in South Tucson, a proud community where families treasure their Mexican traditions while striving for the American Dream. In her own words, she describes how family and community have molded her and pushed her toward success.

My family has lived in South Tucson since the 1940s. I am the big sister to four younger brothers, whom I helped to raise-with the support of the many extended nanas and tias in our community-after our parents divorced.

Growing up, holidays, especially, were filled with family and tradition. My favorite was Christmas Eve when the women of the family would get up early to prepare the food we'd eat for dinner and into the early hours of Christmas morning.

Inside, we baked conchas (sweet bread), cleaned hojas (corn husks) and made meat and masa for tamales. Outside, we cleaned the tripe and soaked frijoles while preparing huge pots to cook menudo and pozole. (Menudo does not always smell the best while cooking, so nana likes to make it outside.) I started taking part in this tradition when I was 5; I can still remember my nana's hands on mine, teaching me to feel the hoja beneath my fingers. "The softer side up," she'd say.

My grandfather also taught me many lessons; he's been the greatest influence in my life. He took me under his wing when I was 6-months-old, raising me to have corazón (heart). In my family, women tend to take on more traditional roles. My grandfather told me my options were limitless, though he also told me there would be challenges.

"Mi hita, you are Mexican and you are a woman, so people will automatically think less of you. Don't let them!" he said.

It was my grandfather who told me to 'outwork everyone, learn as much as you can, master your trade and do it with corazón.' Those are still words I live by. I started at GEICO soon after the Tucson office opened in 2003. I had been working as a travel agent, but after 9/11, the travel industry was in upheaval, and I was eventually laid off. I knew GEICO was my kind of place after the phone screen interview. There was just something about the people that I talked to that made me want to be part of this company.

I have been fortunate to have wonderful leaders at GEICO who've built upon the lessons I learned from my grandpa. My bosses have always worked to find ways to challenge and stretch me. I say 'yes' to every opportunity that comes my way, and I feel that I grow every time. My amazing husband and wonderful kids are constant sources of support. My biggest challenge is the pull between motherhood, the traditional roles the women in my family take on and my professional aspirations.

There are days where I am mad at myself because the kitchen is not pristine, or the laundry is piling up or I didn't cook enough for the week. My husband and kids remind me that we are a family and that, together, we can have it all. Then, we will have a 30-minute cleaning party, where everyone helps to tidy-up.

Family support is how I finished college while also working full-time. There were late nights and early mornings, but my family never complained as I read my biology book out loud like it was storytime. This year, my daughter and I both became the first college graduates in my family.

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