At home in the mountains: A painting of Chilean mountains, which hung in the home in Bogota, Colombia, where Henry lived the first months of his life, is now displayed in Henry’s law office in Dallas. Henry Talavera

Personalities

My Roots: Henry Talavera

The Polsinelli PC shareholder on what he learned from his Colombian mother.

Henry (far right) with his stepfather, mother, grandmother, and younger brother Alex.

“My mom was a single mom, and she worked for an American family in Bogota, Colombia. That’s where I was born. The family my mom was working for was kind enough to take me [in] and keep my mom employed, and they moved us to Kensington, Maryland. That’s where I grew up. My mom was always imploring me to do well in school.

Henry and his wife Susan, pictured in an engagement photo, met when Henry was 13.

I was able to succeed even though I was the dumb kid in the class because my vocabulary was so limited. Even when I was 17, every other phrase was ‘What is this word?’ or ‘What does this mean?’ What my mom did was pretty brave, moving from a little country town in Chile to the U.S., then leaving the comfort of her employer’s house to strike out on her own. I’ve never forgotten that she was a cook, and my stepdad fixed cars for a living. The reason I’m a lawyer is that any time my mother and stepfather would negotiate for something, people would assume that, because they didn’t speak any English, they were stupid. I try to treat people, no matter who they are, based on what they do. I make a real effort not to judge people based on outward appearances. I see how people are treated just because of how they look. I’m super-sensitive to that, especially based on my upbringing and things that happened to my family that I just can’t forget.”

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