AAPI Heritage Highlight: Dan Santos
May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada and AAPI Heritage Month in the US! Sendwave will be highlighting the contributions of our colleagues of Asian descent for the rest of May.
Dan Santos is a Market Launcher who joined Sendwave in January.
Where are you from? I was born and raised in Waukegan and Beach Park, IL but I currently split my time between Henderson, NV and Seattle, WA. This allows me to continue to maintain a sense of community in both Nevada and Washington.
What role or training prepared you for this job? Something I learned working in education and politics was the importance of building good relationships with your communities and students. This prepared me well for my role as a market launcher. Your success often depends on building authentic relationships with your partners who know your community best and are the most well connected within the diasporas that we serve. From there, we can adapt our product and our strategies to best fit the needs of the community. All of this comes from spending time listening, learning, and immersing ourselves within these diaspora communities.
Tell us a little bit about your heritage. My parents immigrated separately from the Philippines in the early 1990s, and met here in the US. My passion for activism and mission driven work stems from my family’s experiences. My mom took out a $5000 loan from a relative to get placed with a nursing agency that promised work in the United States. My father immigrated when my uncle joined the US Navy, and he took odd jobs here in the US. For each of them, this journey represented the chance to create better opportunities for their families through education and economic stability. They raised me with a dual understanding of my identity as a Filipino American and made sure I understood both the privileges and the challenges that came with life in the United States. I felt a commitment to serve immigrant communities and connected to this part of my identity. I bring this perspective to Sendwave’s mission today.
The key values that I was exposed to growing up were hospitality, empathy, and diligence, and in my day-to-day life I think the value that I live out most often is hospitality. As a kid, when we had visitors, we consistently welcomed them warmly and offered them meals, no matter who they were or how we knew them. I got to see the roots of this practice when I first visited the Philippines as an adult in 2018. I was welcomed with open arms by people I hadn’t seen in years. Now, in my work and in my personal life, I try to play that role.
What’s one thing about your heritage that made your childhood really special? Being bilingual is so rare for second generation FilAms, but thanks to my family I speak Tagalog. I’d describe my style as a little bit of Tag-lish. It’s very informal and I have an American accent. My grandparents spoke to me in both languages so that’s how I picked it up. Some people feel their kids need to assimilate so they don’t teach their kids their native tongue, assuming it will hurt their chances of thriving in school. As a kid, I would often confuse the two languages I knew and I had to see a speech pathologist at one point. I’m so grateful that my family spoke to me in both languages though, as it’s so much more difficult to pick up another language once you’re older!
What does Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you? Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a time for me to reflect on my cultural identity and celebrate the sacrifices and experiences of my ancestors and family members. For everyone, I think it’s a good time to gain a better understanding of the stories of Asian people. The past year has been so difficult for the AAPI community, but I’ve really enjoyed the focus on celebration and connection brought forward by so many of our activists and leaders. Our histories have not always been brought to light and unfortunately it’s taken tragedy for people to finally pay attention. These issues aren’t new and it will take all of us to build our awareness and understanding to create change.
Anything else you’d like to add? I recommend people check out AAJC and the Asian American Advocacy Fund if they are looking for causes to support this month or any month. The National Federation of Filipino American Associations also has lots of resources for connecting with the community.