Latino Influentials Raising Bilingual and Bicultural Children

Argentinian Entrepreneur Roxana Lissa, a true believer in the benefits of being bilingual and bicultural.

Roxana Lissa is the Founder and CEO of RL Public Relations + Marketing, and Partner of Sportivo, Sports Marketing. With offices in both the east and west coasts, RL Public Relations is one of the largest independently owned Hispanic public relations and marketing agencies in the United States. It boasts a team of talented and culturally diverse professionals and has an impressive roster of clients including the California Milk Processor Board (creator of got milk?), National Honey Board, Nike, Domino's, among others. Over the years, Lissa's teams have received over twenty industry awards for many of their campaigns, including the HPRA Best Food and Beverage Campaign Award developed for "got milk?" and the HPRA Campaign of the Year Award for Honey Nut Cheerios in 2010. Most recently, the agency received the HPRA Best Non-Profit Campaign for Ford Motor Company in 2013.

A native of Argentina, Lissa is fluent in three languages: Spanish, English and Italian. Friendly, confident and always smiling, Lissa enjoys skiing and horseback riding, both of which she prefers doing with her children. Below is my interview with this inspiring, hard-working and devoted Latina mom.

Where were you born and raised?

I was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Did you grow up bilingual and/or bicultural? Do your parents speak English?

Yes, my father was Italian and my mom Polish. I speak fluent Italian.

How was education viewed in your household? What were the expectations from your parents for your performance in school?

Education was highly regarded in my home. My mom unfortunately didn't get a lot of opportunities as she was the eldest of 8 brothers and sisters and she couldn't go to school until she was older. She worked extremely hard to make sure I received the best education available.

How was growing up in your house?

My parents were both immigrants when they arrived in Argentina, so they instilled in me the importance of education and working hard to accomplish your goals. Success was always part of the conversation at home. "You can do anything you want, Roxana; if you work hard, you will be successful," were phrases I grew up with so I didn't really see any other option in my life but to be successful.

How many children do you have?

I have two kids, a boy and a girl; Andreas, 10 and Sienna, 6. They are being raised bilingual and bicultural, they go to a school that has a bilingual program.

How do you instill cultural pride?

I have friends from many different countries and I travel a lot with my kids to Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and all over the world. It's important to me that my children understand and deeply appreciate a variety of cultures; it's the best gift I can provide to them.

How have you balanced work and family? What is the one thing you can think of that helped the most?

It's very hard. Luckily, as a business owner I am flexible and I can still participate in my kids' after-school activities. The answer I have is ORGANIZATION. You have to be very organized and count on a highly reliable support system every day. What works for us (even if I am currently divorced), is that both of us have flexible schedules. If both of us had full-time jobs, it would be even more challenging.

How old were you when you immigrated to the U.S.?

21 years old.

Who inspires you the most now?

My inspiration are working dads and moms who do so much to make sure their kids have a good education. I know so many Latinas who work so hard and sacrifice everything so their kids can have a good future and a better life. These are the stories that inspire me and make me feel grateful every day.

What were your early goals for your career? Are you surprised by where you ended up career-wise?

I always wanted to be in PR. It's what I was born to do. Argentina has an amazing PR college curriculum. I never thought I would be an agency owner at such young age (I opened my business when I was 25 years old). Sometimes I wonder how I did it, and the key for me was to align myself with the best in the business who taught me all the things I didn't know given my age.

When did you start your business?

I started my business in 1995.

Did you have some career mentors along the way? Did you find a difference between women mentors and men mentors?

My first boss in the U.S., Marty Cooper, was a great mentor. He loves PR and I learned so much from him. Given that PR engages more women than men, many of my mentors have been women with more experience. I have also taken numerous classes and continue to connect with people from different industries so I can improve myself every day.

What are you reading now?

I am reading a lot of spiritual books, Finding Higher Love is one of them. I love Tony Robbins, so I read everything I can from him.

Do you think things have changed much for women in the corporate world in the last 20 years?
Somewhat, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Once women start a family, it's difficult to balance both their personal and professional lives, and be successful. I admire women like Hillary Clinton and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer because they are moms and incredibly smart women, and yet they face daily challenges because they are successful in a male-dominated society.

Do you follow politics? Why do you think it is important for Latinos to get more involved?

I do actively follow politics. The issues affecting the Latino community are far too important and need to be addressed. I often speak with colleagues about how we need to get involved to help support progress in immigration, access, and education as these are crucial matters that impact the future of our children. We can only continue to grow stronger if we are united and our voices are heard.

Do you have a message for young Latina women climbing the corporate ladder while raising a family?

It takes a village to do it right. You need a support system that allows you to have the peace of mind to do the work you love and also take care of your family. The most important thing is to take care of yourself in the process. Finding time for you is really important to remain centered and have clarity of mind: exercising, seeing friends, going for walks, meditating, whatever works for you -- it's a must to stay strong and healthy.

By Maritere Rodriguez Bellas, author, free-lance writer, blogger in L.A.
Find Maritere Rodriguez Bellas on her blog:
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