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Latina edition Leticia Van de Putte

campaigning for her community Melissa Medina


Leading a legacy April 2014 Vol. 15 No. 2

Heart of Miami

Sandra Vivanco

Building diversity

Follow the Leaders




Born to Run: Esai for President

He’s a contender. Esai Morales steps into the ring to battle for the top job at the entertainment industry’s biggest union.

Story by Judi

54 • July / August 2013


Photos by

Ejen Chuang



ind a dream home. Find the right loan to finance it. Figure out what escrow payment, fees and other terms mean. Isaiah Rodriguez and his team make this all clear, whether you're looking to buy your first home or wanting to refinance. Rodriguez, a Greater Los Angeles Area mortgage banker and planner, wants to make the home purchasing process as understandable and easy as possible for people in his community. A banker for previous employers, Rodriguez enjoyed making a connection with clients and seeing them through the sometimes arduous path that is home buying. Before starting The Rodriguez Group, the California native wasn't satisfied with simply getting paperwork done and sending new homeowners on their way. He wanted conversations and a more proper interaction. Today, a first sit-down with Rodriguez might last hours. What does he talk about: You. He wants to know all about you, your background, your intentions and especially your financial situation. It's always a good time to buy real estate, he says. But is it a good time for you, is the more important question, he adds. Others simply might push a client to purchase a home so they can make a quick sale and sell off a mortgage to another entity. After those 25 or 30 days, Rodriguez says, many planners are not involved with the new homeowner. "That's it," he said. "They forget about the clients. They don't keep in touch." Rodriguez wanted to be an exception to that custom. At The Rodriguez Group, the team's motto is "Your personal approach to mortgage planning." And it is personal. He not only wants to know about the prospective home buyer. He wants to take in that knowledge and then dish out a lot of information about what the process entails in as clear a way as possible. The group's operation is about cultivating an informed clientele that focuses on one of the largest debts they will have in life, and that's a mortgage, he explained. That hands-on, personal approach is coupled with his team constantly needing to keep up with changes in the economy, loan market and other areas that affect their operations and clients. "We have to be ahead of the game," said Rodriguez. "We have to be beyond the cutting edge and be able to present the various set of information to our clients in the most simplistic, layman's terms, without confusing them." Rodriguez's sales career originated as a 15-year-old Foot Locker employee. He was born to Colombian parents, an aerospace engineer father and siblings each at least about 15 years his

senior. Also, he grew up in a rough neighborhood where gangs were predominant. "I made it out alive with a tie." With more than a decade of experience, Rodriguez makes it a point to meet with every client the group helps. "Every client will be touched by me, no matter what," he said. "They're going to hear from me. We're going to interact. The majority of my time is speaking with clients and having a lot of interaction with them." He also takes pride in being forthcoming with clients, he added, explaining that clients are given a percentage of the commission back as a lender credit and are informed that the group makes much of its revenue by selling their loans to big banks. That isn't a common practice in the industry, he noted. "This is something that a lot of brokers or loan officers do they won't disclose to their clients, and we disclose. We are very transparent." That approach has garnered much positive feedback. And it's noted on the group's Facebook page. There, clients and other members of the community share success stories, expressions of gratitude and shout outs to Rodriguez and his team. He hopes to take that positive energy and success to new locations: Austin and an East Coast presence in Florida for the moment. In Austin already is a friend of The Rodriguez Group. Austin realtor Sarah Williams shares the same passion as Rodriguez when it comes to client satisfaction. The two connected via social media, and today she sends her usually first-time home buyers only to The Rodriguez Group for loan services. "My clients in Austin, they can't believe it. It's so funny," Williams said. "They're like, 'We get more information from him than we do from someone that's five minutes away from us.'" Williams added she is happy with Rodriguez's group because she believes them to provide top-notch service, and she has a comeback for any who question her using only one loan service provider. "I actually had an agent tell me the other day, 'Well, you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket just working with one lender,'" she said. "But, I told her I'm so confident in their team, I don't worry about it." Rodriguez notices the demographic changes in the country revealing an emerging Latino population in the country. This change also has manifested in a boon in Latinos purchasing homes, which will prove to make a large impact, because with the mortgage financing education that businesses like his promotes, the population will be better informed on how to manage such debt and build wealth with real estate, Rodriguez said. "The more awareness we have, the more financial success we'll see in our community."

GETTING TO KNOW ISAIAH Favorite novelist or writer: Tom Clancy, Jim Rohn If you could have any other career it would be: Three alternatives - building, racing cars; something in the health industry; aerospace engineer You never leave home without: Pressed juice and Nike Fuelband I like to spend my free afternoons: Taking coastal drives, being out by the beach with family My worst habit: Not knowing when to disconnect (ex. responding to text messages from clients during dinner) The last movies I saw: "Skyfall" and "Fast and Furious 6" My favorite thing to wear is: Polos My favorite thing to eat: Cuban food (He still loves some Colombian food) One thing on my bucket list: Go on a weeks-long vacation and drive race car in the Spanish coastal village of Sa Calobra

Experience the lives of our leaders digitally.

Latino Winemakers Amelia Morán Ceja

16 • July / August 2013


Property & Vineyards: 113 acres in the Carneros Region. AVA(s): Carneros, Sonoma Coast First Vintage: 2001 Current Labels: 2009 Napa Carneros Chardonnay ($34), 2008 Vino de Casa Red Blend ($20), 2009 Sonoma Carneros Merlot ($34), 2010 Bella Flor - Dry Rosé of Syrah & Pinot Noir ($50), 2009 Sonoma Coast Syrah ($34), 2010 Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($22), 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir ($40), 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50), 2008 Napa Valley Dulce Beso (Sweet Kiss) ($40). Where to get it: By law, they only ship wine to adults 21 and older in the following states: AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, KS, LA, IL, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, NE, NH, NV, NM, NY, OH, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY. For shipping wine to other states please contact Ceja Vineyards. Adult signature is required upon delivery. Case production has increased from 750 cases to 10,000 cases per year, and Ceja wines are offered at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the United States.

flavors and her experience with food that have shaped her life choices. Long before the California legislature recognized Amelia as “Woman of the Year” in 2005 for “breaking the glass ceiling in a very competitive business,” the first Mexican-American woman ever to be elected president of a winery was on the frontier of wine. The dynamo behind more than 140 video blogs since 2009 on preparing Mexican cuisine and pairing it with wine, Amelia has introduced thousands to exciting flavor combinations they never dreamed of. Embracing both her Mexican heritage and American home, Amelia combines the best of what she finds in food and drink, tradition and innovation. “As a minority cellar, we are shaping the wine industry,” explains Amelia, who was honored as the “most outstanding female leader, innovator and visionary in the wine field in the North Bay” by North Bay Business Journal at its 2008 Women in Business gala. “We’re embracing the best in both cultures and tossing away what doesn’t work,” says Amelia. “I don’t want to be homogeneous; my experience is enhancing my adopted country. We’re making both of our cultures better. Why not share what is wonderful—and keep it?” Salud!

Brief Story of the Winery: Ceja Vineyards is an ultrapremium Latino family-owned winery in the Napa Valley. It was founded in 1999 by Amelia, Pedro, Armando and Martha Ceja – first generation Mexican-American immigrants. Their dedication to sustainable agriculture and the gentle handling of the grapes in the cellar can be tasted in every sip of their legendaryestate-grown wines.

Ceja Pinot & Chardonnay Tasting Notes: Everybody does Chardonnay and Pinot Noir these days and sometimes, it is really easy to get confused and not stand out with your wine. But this is certainly not the case with Ceja wines. First and foremost, the Ceja family has one of the best-ever brand ambassadors that have ever existed: Amelia Morán Ceja. A lady with a fascinating conversation, delectable hospitality and an incredible product to back her up. Her enthusiasm is highly contagious, and it is really hard to not fall for her wines after you know her.

Ceja Vineyards has received numerous awards including: The California Latino Legislative Caucus 2012 Latino Spirit Award. The Spirit Awards recognize those businesses/ individuals that exemplify the spirit of the Latino community and have contributed to the State of California. Inc. Magazine selected Ceja Vineyards “Entrepreneur of the Year 2004” (one of seven) in the January 2005 issue. In addition, Ceja Vineyards was named “Best New Winery” in 2002 by over 90 of the world’s most prestigious wine writers, case production has increased from 750 cases to 10,000 cases per year, and Ceja wines are offered at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the United States including the French Laundry.

Ceja Vineyards, Napa Carneros Chardonnay 2009 ($34) I first tasted the Chardonnay as many of the Ceja Family friends gathered at a cookout dinner at their home with lemon and garlic grilled oysters. I will never forget it with the setting sun, the warm summer Napa afternoon and the great experience of trying the wine with them. This one is filled with tropical fruit, citrus, melon, kiwi and pear. Good body and acidity, balanced and still enough personality to be a distinguished wine. Nice oak, not overwhelming the fruit flavors, and a buttery and creamy finish.

Who is Amelia Ceja? In 1967, Amelia Morán Ceja immigrated to the U.S. to join her father, a farm worker, who toiled for years in California’s vineyards. Today she’s crossing another border, turning upwardly mobile Latinos into wine aficionados with here subtle blend of viticulture, down-home cuisine and a Web-based marketing campaign. A strong matriarchal tradition in her family fostered Amelia’s independent spirit, but more than anything, Amelia feels it is

Ceja Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2008 ($50) This could be one of my favorite wines for lunch. Low in tannins and acidity, flowery and spiced. Perfect for a roast beef sandwich, a steak salad or even some pasta. I love the spiciness of the wine with light peppery and clove notes and violet and plum accents at the peak. It has a great finish, long and pleasant.


VIcente J. Fernandez, Neredia Corona, and Cristal Garcia

June 6, 2013 Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers


Ceja Vineyards President and Owner: Amelia Morán Ceja

THE LATINO LEADERS team invited a new batch of Club Leaders of the Future (CLF) to Chicago to network and be part of the conversation. They had a lively roundtable while chatting about personal experiences. Here’s what our new leaders had to say about the event and Club Leaders of the Future:


Victor Herrera and Joe Garcia

ATTENDEES: Anabel Galeana Abarca Congressional Aide 5th District, Illinois

Gabriel Chavez Program Manager Exelon Nuclear

Ramon Saucedo Relationship Manager Chase

Andres Baltazar Financial Representative// Field Director Northwestern Mutual

Jacqueline Gomez Director Office of Contract Compliance at Cook County

Ricardo A. Garcia Language & Cultural Ambassador Spanish Ministry of Education

Jesse Ruiz Securities Group DrinkerBiddle&Realth,LLP

Veronica Arreola Director Women in Science and Engineering Program: University of Illinois at Chicago

Benjamin Bernal Trustee Fox River Water Reclamation District Cristal Garcia Administrative Assistant ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois Edgar Delgado Contracting Officer General Services Administration

Joe Garcia Chief of Staff Office of Senator Martin A. Sandoval Leonore Sanchez Deputy Village Clerk Village of Maywood

Emmanuel N. Kinard Lending Manager TCF National Bank

Neredia Corona Associate Director Kraft Foods

Ennedy D. Rivera Esq. Special Prosecutor Wysocki & Smith

Noe Fragoso Broker Associate Northlake Realtors

“I’m still new to the CLF concept, but I believe that anything that helps upcoming and rising Latino leaders of Chicago come together is a great thing. So many of us want to work hard for our Latino communities and Chicago in general. I’m excited to work with everyone!.”

--- Veronica Arreola

Vicente J. Fernandez VP / Co-Founder

The CLF: Chicago group.

Victor Herrera Executive Vice President National Society of Hispanic MBA’s

“I think the best part of the evening was when each of shared a bit of our background and what drives us to do what we do. It was a special part of the evening, where each of us could draw some parallels but also see some fantastic differences.”

Rachel Gonzalez Economics & Communications University of Michigan

To read more quotes about this event and learn moreaboutotherevents,

--- Gabriel Chavez

Gabriel Chavez, Benjamin Berbal and Ennedy Rivera chat

62 • December 2012 / January 2013

Find them here

Connecting Leaders, In spiring the Future

CONTENTS april 2014


COVER STORY: Dorene Dominguez: As CEO and chairwoman of the Vanir Group of Companies, Dorene Dominguez is able to lead efforts to improve sustainability and the environment. She tells Latino Leaders what it takes to be a strong leader and how she overcame the face of adversity.

2 • April 2014


CONTENTS april 2014


16 Carmen Nava: The senior vice president of Customer Experience at AT&T talks about risks and rewards that have led to her success at one of the largest communications corporations in the country. 18 Anna Maria Chavez:

As the first Latina CEO of the Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chavez shares valuable advice to young Latinas on leadership and how to make it in the corporate world.

22 Latinas in Corporate:

Pushing past the social restraints placed on them, these top Latinas in the corporate world have bridled their drive and perseverance to rise to esteemed positions throughout the country.

28 Jackeline Cacho: Seasoned Univision news anchor, Jackeline Cacho, decided to leave her position at Univision to start her own show called “Jackeline Cacho Presents Latino Triumphs.” She explains what it took to branch out and why good news does sell. 34 Network of Talent:

The Mexican Consulate in Dallas gathered to promote the leadership and innovation of up-and-coming bilinguals to have a lasting impact on both sides of the border.

36 Melissa Medina: Hailing from one of Miami’s

most respected entrepreneurial families, Melissa Medina is on a mission to better the communities and industry of her hometown. As president of the Medina Family Foundation, she has the opportunity to further the foundation’s mission for generations to come.

48 Leticia Van de Putte: Leticia Van de Putte, the Texas state senator from San Antonio threw her name into the race for lieutenant governor last year. Now the Democratic nominee for the race, Van de Putte is in general election mode. 54 Sandra Vivanco:

As an award-winning architect, Sandra Vivanco, uses her passion for design and accessibility to create structures for various different purposes. She tells how being a woman in the industry poses the exact challenges that make her want to push her work farther with inclusion and diversity.

60 Diana Albarran Chicas: Currently, Diana Albarran Chicas serves as an engineering manager in the Nearfield Range test facility with SSL in Palo Alto, California. Using the support of her family, she talks about how she was able to move past hardships and discrimination to be successful in the STEM field. 4 • April 2014

64 Patricia Rodriguez: Dallas-based artist Patri-

cia Rodriguez discusses how being a starving artist led her to be resourceful while keeping her Latin roots close at hand.

Events Coverage 70 Club Leaders of the Future: Miami 76 Club Leaders of the Future: San Diego

In Every Issue 06 08 12 80

From the editor’s desk In conversation with the publisher Southwest Landing What is Jorge Ferraez Drinking?

Letter from the editor

Latino Leaders


is always evolving and moving forward.

6 • April 2014

We want to keep being the most important publication about Latino leaders in the country, but we also want to take our next step and become more relevant on the national media scene. For this task, which is in no way easy, we have invited Esther Perez to take the position of editor in chief and to command the editorial content for the magazine and all it’s digital platforms. Esther comes with a great background as a journalist and editor and has a tremendous vision and set of ideas to take Latino Leaders to the next step up. We’re confident that Esther is going to play a key role in the good content and transcendence that Latino Leaders is going to bring to you in the years to come.

Since joining the team of Latino Leaders Magazine, that word has met me every time I walk through the doorway of my new office. When people ask what I do, it’s easy to talk about scribbling out story ideas or sitting through everlasting meetings that shave away precious deadline time, but that isn’t what defines my work. It’s a privilege to share the stories of the Latinas in this edition who have not only broken the limitations placed on them but also are beautiful examples of our future. With women who are deeply involved in shaping a new generation, redefining the roles of Latinas and standing out in their fields, this edition brings excellence with each turn of the page.

Raul and Jorge Ferraez

Esther Marie Perez Editor In Chief

a conversation with the publisher Connecting Leaders, Inspiring the Future

Ximena Gonzalez

Publisher Jorge Ferraez

Editor-in-Chief: Esther Perez

Deputy Associate Director, Office of the First Lady, the White House. March 20, 2014 at La Taberna del Alabardero in Washington, D.C.


Ximena Gonzalez is one of the most impressive young Latinas I have ever met. Her story is amazing — a Mexican border town girl from Brownsville, Texas who worked her way to the White House. “My father and mother worked hard and taught me the importance of getting an education. So I listened, learned from them, studied hard and managed to get a full scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.” With that opportunity, Ximena graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, “I wanted more, and then I learned about the White House internship program. My mom couldn’t believe I was applying to the White House until the day she told me, with this incredible look on her face: ‘They are calling you from the White House!” Ximena applied and was accepted for a five-month internship at the White House Social Office. “I worked hard and learned a lot. After five months, I finished and went back home, a few months later I was interviewed for a permanent position. “This was incredible! In a few months I was back organizing projects and events for the President and First Lady of the United States.” There’s a slight expression of pride on her face, but Ximena is very good with controlling her emotional expressions, perhaps she could be bursting with excitement about working for the President and Mrs. Obama on protocol and managing details for large scale functions in the White House, but instead, Ximena continues on, very cool: “The most impressive thing about the Obamas is their down-to-earth attitude with everything. They are an example of what hard work can accomplish.” For Ximena, there’s always something different, she’s good with people and her bosses know it, she is confident in her experiences and in herself and will continue to work hard and get things done. “I never imagined that a Mexican girl with big dreams would end up working for the President of the United States. My proudest moment came when President Obama went to Mexico for an official visit with President Peña Nieto, and I went as part of the White House team: I was so happy and proud, the Mexican Delegation couldn’t believe that I was Mexican.” As I kept listening to her stories and experiences, I thought what an amazing country the U.S. is — full of opportunities for those who really want to work to achieve their dreams, but also I was admiring the development of a true leadership story and the emergence of a new Latina leader.

President and CEO Raul Ferraez

Director of Journalism: Mariana Gutierrez National Director of Events: Yol-Itzma Aguirre National Sales Director: Joshua Baca Administrative Director: Cathy Marie Lopez Editorial and Events Support Coordinator: Emilia Gaston Art Director: Fernando Izquierdo Editorial Art & Design: Rodrigo Valderrama Carlos Cuevas Luis Enrique González Human Resources Manager: Susana Sanchez Administration and Bookkeeping: Claudia García Bejarano Executive Assistant to the Publishers: Liliana Morales Circulation System Manager: Andrea Luna For advertising inquiries, please call 214-206-4966

Latino Leaders: The National Magazine of the Successful American Latino (ISSN 15293998) is published seven times annually by Ferraez Publications of America Corp., 15443 Knoll Trail, Suite 210, 75248 Dallas, TX, USA, April 2014. Subscription rates: In U.S. and possessions, one year $15.00. Checks payable to Ferraez Publications of America, 15443 Knoll Trail, Suite 210, 75248 Dallas, TX, USA. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Latino Leaders, 15443 Knoll Trail, Suite 210, 75248 Dallas, TX, USA.© 2001 by Ferraez Publications of America Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without the consent of Latino Leaders: The National Magazine of the Successful American Latino. The periodical’s name and logo, and the various titles and headings therein, are trademarks of Ferraez Publications of America Corp.

Member of The National Association of Hispanic Publications

Audited by Member of Reg. # 283/01


8 • April 2014

Latino Leaders The National Magazine of the Successful American Latino 15443 Knoll Trail, Suite 210, 75248 Dallas, TX, USA Phone: (214) 206-4966 / Fax: (214) 206-4970

Become part of the conversation

behind the screens Join us for minute-by minute updates of events, sneek peeks and new editions and follow-ups on our contributors’ impact online. Follow us on Facebook at LatinoLeadersMag, on Twitter at @LatinoLeadersUS or on Instagram at LatinoLeadersMag. Also, go online for extras such as our fashion style guide by National Sales Director Joshua Baca.


Norma Rubio West Coast producer at NBC Latino

STORY BY: Emilia Gaston Photo provided by: Ken Pagliaro


or Norma Rubio, being the public’s watchdog is simple when compassion is on the forefront. As a West Coast producer for NBC Latino, the Los Angeles-based journalist’s passion for storytelling shines through with each story she is able to cover. As a woman and Latina, her upbringing and values allow her to remain humble and determined. Starting out as a teleprompter operator led Rubio to an internship with a local news affiliate in Seattle, where she was able to see that although she never dreamed of being a journalist, things have a funny way of coming together. “I always loved news and TV and entertainment and politics, so I figured I might as well take the internship and see what it was like,” Rubio said. Describing it as a “bug you catch,” she held on to that strong interest and pursued a career in news. But for Rubio, nothing compares to telling the compelling stories of people who are making a difference in the world, and as a Latina, she can connect with her audience humbly and supportively. “I’m really proud of my heritage, and I’m so happy that my parents taught me that being a Latina is something to be proud of.” Rubio also states how helpful it is to be able to truly relate to Latinos, especially being on the West Coast, where immigration reform is part of the daily conversation. “It’s so important to be authentic, so that makes these stories a little easier to tell.” As many of her stories involve interviewing and profiling people who have prevailed through numerous odds, Rubio sees a parallel in her everyday life. “I know that any time I’m able to walk through a challenge or obstacle, I’m able to come out a better person because of it, and it makes me grow.”

Although she has to cover her fair share of political and governmental issues like the debate and effects of SB1070, one of the strictest anti-immigration laws in U.S. history, Rubio keeps the human element close to her heart. She describes a time in 2013 when she interviewed a local Los Angeles schoolteacher who formed an after-school choir when the school’s budget cuts removed the music program. “The children would tell me how it keeps them out of trouble and how they could otherwise be on the streets involved in drugs or gangs. And I was like, ‘ wow, everything I do here is worth it’.” As for 2014, Rubio will be dealing with changes in her career and her personal goals. As the NBC Burbank Studios prepare to move to a new state-of-the-art facility in Universal City, Rubio sees a new set of exciting challenges ahead. She will now not only be producing but also writing, maintaining social media, editing and performing duties on the online platform. “Now, I get to do so many more things and hone my creative talents in a way that is so fun,” Rubio said. But in her personal life, she said “I think I need to figure out a way to do more.” Life as a journalist can be so fast-paced and nonstop that Rubio has little down time to work in the community as a volunteer. Although she annually supports the LA Rescue Mission and San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission by donating her time and money to the causes, her biggest aspirations are actually quite simple: “When I walk in the world every day, I want to be the best version of myself that I can be, and I want to know that sometimes big change happens in small ways.”

Living Your Purpose and Vision BY: Ginger C. Hardage Senior vice president culture and communications


t Southwest, I have the honor of leading our culture and communication functions. I truly feel so blessed each and every day to be in a position that I get to promote and enhance the culture of our company; it’s no secret that our people are what make Southwest Airlines extraordinary. Over the years, Southwest has accomplished many great firsts: the first low-cost carrier,

the first airline website, the first profit-sharing plan in our industry and the first airline to give America the Freedom to Fly. We have achieved these things by knowing exactly who we are as a company. We are a company devoted to our employees, dedicated to our customers and determined to provide a good return to our shareholders. But how do we bring that to life? By knowing why we exist – our purpose – and what we aspire to be – our vision. Our purpose tells us why we exist, why we get up in the morning, why our work really matters and what we do that no one else can. Our purpose is to

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connect people to what’s important in their lives with friendly, reliable and low-cost air travel. Like many companies today, we are in the midst of fast-paced change, and it can be easy to get confused. If one’s purpose is clear, the way forward and the decisions that are needed to get there are defined. At Southwest, our purpose is very clear – it was true in 1971, and it is true today. Other airlines may be able to connect people, but only Southwest can do it with friendly, reliable and low-cost air travel. The magic is in the “and.” We provide a unique combination, and our people are the secret to delivering on our one-of-a-kind brand.

In addition to working each and every day to connect people, we want and need to have a dream for the future: what do we aspire to be? At Southwest, we say that it is not just a job, it is a mission. This is something bigger than us. What do we want to achieve that is audacious, ambitious and aspirational? Our vision is to become the world’s most-loved, most-flown and mostprofitable airline. For years, we’ve been honored as one of Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies — all while serving one country on the map. What happens when we set new horizons — when we set out to introduce the people of the world

to the people of Southwest Airlines? Seeing our employees to do their best each and every day serving our customers and helping Southwest reach for the dream of the future is inspiring, humbling and rewarding. The culture of Southwest Airlines is like no other, and I believe that is because we have the purpose and the vision to be an airline like no other. Purpose and vision can be a company’s compass point to make sure it is always heading in the right direction, helping make course adjustments along the way. Our purpose and vision help us make sure that our compass always points “Southwest.”

Photo provided by Carmen Nava

Connecting Latinas to a bright future As senior vice president of Customer Experience at AT&T, Carmen Nava discusses the risks, rewards and relationships that she has encountered throughout her career. Through her experiences, Nava has learned that hard work, open communication and honesty lead to success.

Latino Leaders: What are you most passionate about with your work? Carmen Nava: I’m very passionate about the customer experience, and I’m thrilled to be in my current role. I love working with teams across AT&T to develop ways to make things easier for our customers. Our customers lead busy lives and rely on our network and our products to live, work and play. Our people set us apart. We’re all about transforming the customer experience. LL: As a rising businesswoman, what risks have you taken that have paid off in your career? CN: One of the most significant risks I took was when I moved from Los Angeles to Dallas in 1999. My husband had a great job at a large Los Angeles law firm, my daughter was doing very well in a great school, our families lived close by; we had a great home and a great support system around us. The company asked me to move to Dallas to take on an executive position in a new department to complete one of our mergers. I didn’t know how long the new job would last, but I did know that moving would send a clear signal that I was interested in advancement. My husband and I discussed it and decided to make the move. We approached it with adventure and curiosity. My family and friends thought I was crazy. They couldn’t understand how I could walk away from everything we had in Los Angeles. The move definitely paid off. Since then, I’ve made several other moves – to Northern California, San Antonio and back to Dallas. Each move exposed us to a different part of the country and helped open our daughter’s eyes to this big world of possibilities. She now lives on the East Coast in her first job out of grad school and is not afraid to travel around the world. I have been given many opportunities in many parts of the company. Each move expanded my knowledge and experience. Yes it was a risk, but it sure paid off. LL: What do you value most when working with your customers? CN: What I value most when working with our customers is their honesty and openness. I love talking directly to customers because they help me stay connected to how they use and rely on our products and services. They also give me great ideas on how we can make it easier for them to do business with us. I remember speaking to a customer many years ago. She said, “You are the experts. As a customer I am relying on your advice. Tell me how to best work with you and keep me informed so that we both have a good experience.” I’ll never forget that conversation because, first, she cared enough to speak openly about how we could better serve her and, second, because it was such a good reminder that customers rely on us and look to us to be their 16 • April 2014

trusted advisors. That’s an awesome responsibility and one we take seriously. LL: Who or what has been your motivation to pursue your career? CN: Early on, my motivation to pursue my career was all about making my parents proud. They worked so hard and made so many sacrifices for me and I wanted them to know that I appreciated them. I was one of seven children. My dad ran a small business, working six days a week. He and my mom volunteered at our church on weekends. When I chose to go to USC for college, they took out a second mortgage on our house to pay my tuition. I really wanted to be successful so that I could pay them back. My dad is about to turn 92 and still with us. I still am motivated by living out his dream for me. His sacrifices enabled me to have this life. LL: What kind of legacy do you wish to impart to other Latinas in the corporate world? CN: I’m grateful for those who came before me. I stand on the shoulders of those who opened doors and broke through barriers. And I hope that, as an officer of a Fortune 10 company, I can be a role model for other Latinas in the corporate world who can now say, “If she can do it, I can do it.” And I hope they prepare themselves to take advantage of opportunities to play much more significant roles in this new global economy. LL: What do you attribute to your success? CN: Hard work. Yes, there are other factors such as taking risks and being in the right place at the right time, but there is no substitute for working hard and delivering meaningful contributions. I encourage everyone to do their job better than it has ever been done before. You may not have the most exciting role in the company, but people will take note when you set a new bar and deliver outstanding performance. LL: What advice do you have for rising Latinas? CN: Know your priorities and your values. Surround yourself with people who support you, who believe in you and care enough about you to give you honest feedback. Courageously go after your dreams and your goals knowing you have a strong support system around you rallying you on. For more questions with Nava, visit

18 • April 2014

L at ino Le a de r s

One Smart Cookie Anna Maria Chavez demonstrates her confidence in Girl Scouts of the USA proudly even though it is not a badge made out of thread. As the first Latina CEO of the organization and as a former member of Eloy, Arizona’s Troop 304, Chavez’s work has inspired thousands of young women to pursue personal and professional goals to make their dreams a reality. She catches up with Latino Leaders to share advice for young, up-and-coming corporate Latinas. — Esther Perez Photos contributed by Girl

Scouts of the USA

Exploring the CEO world “Leadership takes place at the intersection of vision and execution. Serving as the CEO of any organization means that you must bring a unique perspective to the table in dealing with the organization’s challenges, but it also means knowing how to tap into the expertise and insights around you. Ultimately, you make your mark and establish yourself in the CEO world by believing in your vision and having the tenacity and courage to lead in a way that inspires people to follow.”

Cookie who doesn’t crumble “Dealing with challenges and overcoming obstacles is part of being a leader. I am a data-driven person – I believe in using the best information available to make an informed decision about the best course of action. I also tend to be a positive person by nature. Instead of seeing challenge, I try to see opportunity, and a chance to re-imagine how to do something. Challenges are a part of life, but if you can learn to see the possibilities in challenge, there’s no obstacle you can’t overcome.”

Trailblazer “I am extremely proud to be the first Latina to serve as National CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, and I take my responsibilities as a role model for young Latinas everywhere very seriously. Too many young Hispanic girls are discouraged, either actively or passively, from taking leadership positions in their lives. Girls are watching us, and they’re incredibly perceptive. It’s incumbent on Latinas in leadership positions to blaze a trail for young Hispanic girls, and set a standard that they can aspire to achieve and, one day, surpass.”

Impacting society, government and generations of upcoming leaders “Girl Scouts develops girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place, and I can’t imagine a more important mission than that. Through initiatives like our “To Get Her There” campaign and our “Ban Bossy” campaign in partnership with, we are working to recruit all of society to help us nurture the ambitions and potential of girls and young women. Ultimately, it’s our girls who will make the biggest impact on our world, by becoming the leaders our world will need in this fast-paced, ever-changing environment.”

Supporting her troops “We are proud of our long legacy of inclusion, and I’m proud to continue that tradition as the first Latina CEO of Girl Scouts. Latinas are America’s fastest-growing population – poised to take the reins of leadership in our lifetime. The key to girls is the involvement of adult volunteers who can serve as troop leaders and bring the Girl Scout experience to life in an exciting, relatable way. So we are working to expand the reach of Girl Scouting into the Latina community so that more girls than ever before can benefit from our program. We want Girl Scouts to reflect the face of the United States.”

Balance between work and play “This is always a difficult question for any leader to answer. The fact is that you have to take time for yourself, and you have to make time for family. The trick, I think, is to be fully present wherever you are. When you’re home or on vacation, you have to put the phones and tablets down and trust the team you’ve assembled back at the office to get the job done. When you return to work, you’ll be refreshed and ready to dive back in, knowing you have the love and support of your family.” 20 • April 2014

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Latinas command corporate world Story by

Jesus Lopez-Gomez

Pushing past the social restraints placed on them, these top Latinas in the corporate world have bridled their drive and perseverance to rise to esteemed positions throughout the country. Learning from experience, mentors and hard work, these women have carved their names in history as forerunners for Latinas looking to make a difference in their industries.

Gisel Ruiz

— CEO for Wal-Mart U.S. and executive VP Wal-Mart

Gisel Ruiz was supporting Wal-Mart U.S.’s 1.2 million associates as the executive vice president of People for Walmart when she decided to take on a new challenge. The Santa Clara University alumna had at this point been with the company for just two decades beginning as a management trainee but was all the same welcomed into the company’s elite ranks as chief operating officer. Ruiz’s promotion was lauded as a rare zenith for Latina leadership, but she is quick to note Wal-Mart operates under a culture of inclusion. As a keynote speaker at the NEW Executive Leaders Forum in late summer of 2012, Ruiz pointed out her company has promoted over 10 percent of the 800,000 women working in Wal-Mart U.S, “which was all about finding the best people for the job and not gender.” Ruiz’s advice to women exhorted authenticity and integrity: “Reveal your whole self at work – consistency is the cousin of integrity. That is being honest with who you are. Bring it all to work.” That is, everything except the shame sometimes incumbent with being a female professional juggling a family and career. “Lose the guilt,” she told the crowd gathered Terranea Resort in Los Angeles, adding the work-life balance is an exercise in futility. “There is work, and there is life and choices. You have to be okay with your choices. Take your steps forward without having to justify decisions or picturing other people’s judgments.” Ruiz has been instrumental in Wal-Mart U.S.’s near 4 percent surge in revenue to $274.5 billion in fiscal year 2013.

22 • April 2014

Grace Puma

Senior VP of procurement, PepsiCo

Maribel Gerstner

President and COO, Allstate Financial Services While Allstate President and COO Maribel Gerstner is happy to be punishingly exacting when it comes to financial regulations — the recentlyminted executive gave an extensive interview regarding a sparsely worded but significant change in financial rules governing gift giving — she tends to be more willing to negotiate when it comes to her personal life and priorities. Speaking on the compromises women face to mediate a domestic and professional role, “I don’t think that there is any true balance,” Gerstner said in an interview with Diversity Magazine. “Balance implies 50-50, and the reality is that there are times when work demands 110% of your time, and there are other times that your family needs your undivided attention.” Gerstner can at least count on one side of that equation staying the same. While in the same interview, she insists her career in finance has been “very fortunate” with the diversity and richness of experience it has afforded her, Gerstner’s work has included long hours with exacting high net-worth clients in which she must simultaneously produce great work and great customer service. Gerstner was Allstate’s chief compliance officer. In her current role, she oversees brokerdealer operations, securities complaints and financial operations, serious and complicated work, which requires her to be systematic and level-headed, not overly heroic. “I work long hours in my current role but not day after day or week after week,” she said. “I try to focus on accomplishing whatever must be finished early in my day, so that if I have the energy or desire to stay late and work on something that isn’t critical, I can choose to do so. But if I’m spent, I can head home and work on that non-critical matter another time.” Allstate’s leader said it’s important to schedule random days off as well as longer vacations in addition to a hard-and-fast “me” time to do things for oneself like take a yoga class, one of Gerstner’s preferred way to spend time off.

In 2008, Grace Puma was caught telling Crain’s Chicago Business that she “loves her job.” Puma was at a prior point in her procurement career; she was busy basically saving United Airlines as their senior vice president of strategic sourcing. Not only was Puma able to take the company through the jet fuel crises of 2008, but she also trimmed its staffing costs by $50 million in her first year in the role. Puma has clocked over 20 years of procurement work with Gillette Co., Motorola Inc., Kraft Foods and now PepsiCo, where she has served as chief procurement officer since 2010. Her colleagues know her as an ace negotiator, a key asset when market conditions and prices change requiring supply deals to be revised accordingly. “She was masterful at putting enough flexibility in the deals to allow those relationships to endure tough times,” said Ric Schneider, senior director of packaging at Kraft. Before her three-year post with United Airlines ended in 2010, Puma also led the airline’s Women’s Development Forum to increase female professional engagement at managementlevel roles.

Carmen Nava

Senior VP of consumer markets AT&T Carmen Nava has gone through quite a few challenges in her time with AT&T — a 27-year career that has included work ranging from billing operations to marketing ending in her appointment to senior vice president of consumer markets in 2012 — but the obstacle she chose to talk about in her interview with Mamiverse was sending her daughter to college. Nava and her family as Latinos were coming to that specific life landmark with a unique cultural context. But this mama had the added pressure of never having left home for college, and leaving her child to tread unknown territory on her own. “ ... [B]ecause when you’re raising children, I used to tell my sister ... ‘How do you know if what you’re doing is right?’” Nava said. “You don’t really know until one day they go off to college and you pray and hope you did all the right things. There’s no measuring stick, there’s no way to really know, and sure you can sort of test, am I getting through, is my message getting through, did I instill the values in her that I hope I really did.” Nava led the company’s entry into the $7 billion tech services industry by launching ConnecTech while watching her daughter move through classes at both Stanford and Yale during which the collegiate spent time in India. “ ... [T]o me, just watching her live out this dream that I’ve had for her, but embracing it as her own goals has really just been the most fulfilling part of my life,” Nava said. Nava also chairs the company’s Latino resource network, HACEMOS, the corporation’s mechanism for providing scholarships and mentoring for minorities pursuing science, technology, engineering and math educations. This initiative and AT&T’s aggressive culture of inclusion won the company the number one spot in Latina Style’s 2013 list of best companies for hispanic women. Past winners include Bank of America, General Mills and AT&T in 2008. Over 90,000 of AT&T’s approximately quarter million-strong workforce are women.

Ana Gabriela Pinczuk

Geisha Williams

Senior VP global technical center, Cisco

Executive VP Pacific Gas and Electric of electric operations

It’s one thing to casually insist to your feminist friends that there should be more women in science.

When Pacific Gas & Electric restructured the gas side

It’s completely another to be the only woman in the

of their business under new management, the utility’s

combustion class and one of the few girls at Carnegie

leadership saw an opportunity to serve their 15 million

Mellon University’s engineering program.

through a refined leadership model. They tapped Gei-

But Ana Gabriela Pinczuk knows what to do in that

sha Williams — just three years into her career with

situation, she had a good sense of humor about it and

the company— to lead the operations as executive vice

dug her feet in.

president of electric operations.

“It was me and 20 guys, and I knew nothing about

The Cuban native’s talent for leadership was recog-

cars,” Pinczuk told “Carnegie Mellon Today.” “But the

nized early on when the job she took as an engineer-

guys were great. And a lot of it was problem sets, so

ing graduate — a residential energy auditor for Florida

once I understood the terminology, the mathematics of

Power and Light — became a path to management

it, it was easy.”

work when a mentor asked her a critical question she’d

Once Pinczuk figured out the numbers on the rest of her career, she was awarded to executive roles at AT&T and Cisco where she currently serves as the information giant’s senior vice president and their in-house B-A as “Latina Style”’s 2013 executive of the year. Could she have anticipated her success when she

failed to pose on her own.

Monica Martinez Senior VP Corporate Contributions, Comerica

left Argentina at age 13? Like all Latinos everywhere

“Someone has to be in charge. Why not you?” Williams recalls the mentor asked in an interview with Hispanic Executive. So began her 27-year tenure with the company during which she managed electric transmission and distribution systems for Florida Power and Light’s approxi-

asked about their great work, Pinczuk credits her suc-

As Comerica Bank’s senior vice president of corporate

mately 4.4 million customers. Williams also successfully

cess to her elders.

contributions and national hispanic business develop-

led a multiyear infrastructure upgrade while bringing

“My mom is a biologist, and my dad is a physicist.

ment, Monica Martinez is responsible for building and

down outages to record lows.

But I really didn’t think about engineering until my first

enriching the bank’s relationship with business lead-

Speaking about her impressive record, Williams

year in college. I thought it was something I could do.”

ers, communities and the various charities it works

sounds almost grateful for the compliments that have

with – basically making sure the bank holds onto its

arisen, moments she’s converted into opportunities for

soul, not an easy task in this post-recession political

successful action.

climate hostile to the financial institutions often all

“Any time there’s a major power interruption, it’s a

blamed generally, both fairly and not, for bringing on

moment of truth, a defining moment for your com-

the economic crisis.

pany,” Williams explains. “It asks of you: Can you gal-

Though that all may be a distraction for the businesswoman whose work has courted the attention of landmark institutions like LATINO Magazine – she is one of the 100 most influential Latinos the magazine identified in 2013 – and the Girl Scouts for her efforts to both increase minority participation and individual commitments she has personally made to their mission. And this isn’t all just good press. Martinez’s work has helped Comerica make the Hispanic Magazine’s Diversity Elite 60 list and expand the bank’s role in the Hispanic market. She has also helped grow the company’s presence in the Latino market. Martinez was named one of 2010’s “Ones to Watch” not only for her great work, but because on she can do all that and still take time to write about how she’s lately been concerned about the lack and importance of volunteering. “It warms my heart to see what mentoring can do for a young student, and I wish more people would get involved as mentors,” she wrote as a guest columnist on local news source Patch. “In truth, so much of who we are is, in part, because of the people who are part of our foundation and our own journey. In many ways, we are each where we are today because someone took the time to know us and believe in us.” 24 • April 2014

vanize your workforce and help the community return to normal?”

Nina Tassler

CBS entertainment Chairwoman As chairwoman of CBS Entertainment, Nina Tassler has been key in making her network the most watched in 10 of the last 11 years. That won’t soon be changing as Tassler renewed her contract in February signing on for another three years. “There are very few executives with her track record of consistently achieving high-level success in all forms of entertainment programming,” her boss, CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, said in a feature in the Los Angeles Times. Moonves adds the two have worked together in television executive roles dating back to their days at Warner Bros. Television where they created and screened hit-TV series “ER.” You’ve definitely heard of, loved or maybe hated

Marie Quintero-Johnson VP and director of mergers and acquisitions Coca-Cola

something Tassler created: “The Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother,” the critically-acclaimed “The Good Wife” and the cringingly-impolite “Big Brother.” Tassler was previous vice president of drama for the network where she helped launch the successful “CSI” franchise.

One of the earliest pieces of advice Marie QuinteroJohnson, vice president and director of mergers and acquisitions for the Coca-Cola Co., got was from her father. Wary of his ambitious, smart and good-looking daughter’s inevitable future obstacles as a woman in the workforce, “[h]e told me to keep doing my job in a professional manner and you’ll get accepted for your

Priscilla Almodovar COO, Chase Community Development Banking

intelligence and not for the fact that you are wearing a skirt,” she told USA Today in fall of 2013.

Priscilla Almodovar’s career has been one of exceptions.

The Georgetown University grad would later lead

From being a prestigious Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar

the beverage company’s strategic acquisitions of Hon-

in Columbia Law School to securing a coveted Chilean

est Tea for an undisclosed amount and Glaceau’s Vita-

client as a partner in White & Case to then being in-

minwater for $4.1 billion.

stalled as JP Morgan Chase’s chief operating officer

“She would also go on to work in Latin America and

of community development banking in 2010 – a rare

be mistaken for the maid,” she recalled. “I was waiting

move for the financial industry in which just 12.4 per-

for all of the attendees of the meeting to arrive, and

cent of executives are women – Almodovar appears to

I was the only female among very experienced, gen-

be making sport of her bad odds.

teel, older Latin men. They were very polite. While we waited, they asked if I could get them coffee, so I did. They then asked, ‘When is the person from Coke going to get here?’” Quintero-Johnson’s leadership earned Coca-Cola Co. the title of Most Admired Corporate Dealmak-

“I am Exhibit A for the American dream,” she told the Mortgage Observer in January. Almodovar is the mother of two children and knows the challenges of being a working parent all too well. Nonetheless, she’s a firm advocate of female engagement in the workforce, especially at executive levels.

ers from The Deal magazine in 2012. The publication

“I am so optimistic. Every year, it gets better,” she

lauded the company’s 77 completed deals between

said mentioning the name women who’s recently en-

2007 and 2011 — “a number easily double that of its

tered executive roles: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yel-

nearest competitor in the consumer-staples category”

len, General Motors leader Mary Barra and JP Morgan

the magazine’s coverage noted. Quintero-Johnson and

Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake.

her team of 20 acquisition professionals have gener-

“Even at my age” – Almodovar, 46, said, “when I

ated $25.2 billion from the transactions from which the

see a woman reach that level of success, it makes you

terms have been disclosed, about 38 of the 77 deals.

think ‘Gosh, maybe I can do that.”

26 • April 2014

Angelica Hurtado

Senior IT project manager at ING Angelica Hurtado’s strategy and leadership have made her someone who is hard to dismiss.

After graduating from the Lean Six Sigma program, Hurtado’s skills of interacting with people and problem solving have proved to benefit her extensively at ING. Teaching thought processes of reducing waste in the most efficient way possible, Lean Six Sigma brings together workers from multiple layers of a company to thoroughly brainstorm and execute solutions. “So what I like about Six Sigma is that it levels us. So whether you’re a VP or you’re the person actually doing the work, everyone’s on an equal playing field. And normally, the best solutions come from a combination of ideas that come up.” Her journey to success brought her through multiple platforms, and in each new setting, she has made significant strides as she learns to adapt and work with others on projects that span from six months to a year. “There is a lot of value in all the different types of personalities, and if you can see the positives in each one, it makes it easier to adjust.” Recognized by ING for 2012 Spot-On Award, 2011 Circle of Honor Award and was named 2009 volunteer of the year, the now senior IT project manager at ING, Hurtado looks forward to progressing even more. With limited Latino representation in her field, Hurtado says that realization has spurred her to work harder to show that anyone can thrive when given the right tools. “I really see it as my responsibility to just do my job very well, bring ideas so they can see that everyone has ideas to bring to the table and push the company forward.” Hard work is something that runs through her blood. Hurtado’s mother, who has master’s degree in Columbian history and was a tenured professor in Columbia, came to America with her husband and 3-year-old Angelica. Both of Hurtado’s parents started at humble jobs, learning to speak and write English better, and now are employed by the government. As a member of National Society of Hispanic MBAs and Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, Hurtado stresses the importance of fostering relationships with people while putting yourself out there so that you maintain connections. “Get connected. … It’s amazing how you find like-minded individuals in these companies, and you never know what positions they hold. You get to know people, and they get to know you not only professionally but also personally.” April 2014 • 27

The Unsinkable Jackeline Cacho

28 • February / March 2014

Judi Jordan Photos by Ming Wu

Story by

Jackeline Cacho is known for her confident, fearless approach, but even she was surprised at the challenges she faced getting her new show “Jackeline Cacho Presents Latino Triumphs” off the ground. Plenty of networks told her “good news doesn’t sell.” Fortunately, Cacho is proving them wrong. “I am not who you think I am.” Jackeline Cacho asserts this dramatically as she prepares to reveal what is behind her perpetually smiling TV persona. Cacho — the entertainment pro, a seasoned Univision news anchor, relentlessly positive advocate, former beauty queen, universally perceived as the confident, unshakable force — wants to confess. “I have suffered from anxiety, and during the eight years it took to make this happen, sometimes, I have wanted to give up,” Cacho said. But now, she is very glad she didn’t throw in the towel. Her popular new show on VMe Network, “Jackeline Cacho Presents Latino Triumphs,” or her official Spanish title: “Jackeline Cacho Presenta Triunfo Latino,” airs Sundays afternoons in 43 U.S. cities and provides the boost many Latinos need at the end of a long week. Cacho reports that her “feel real good” show has great ratings. To her enormous satisfaction and relief after the long road to production, “A huge percentage of Venevision watchers tune in,” she said triumphantly. It took a lot of courage to stay on course, but Cacho is starting to see her tenacity pay off. Yes, there have been many curves in the road, and through this, she has had to work hard at staying focused. With her bubbly personality, sense of humor, easy laughter and conversation flowing all over the map, it is not hard to imagine that staying focused is challenging for Cacho, who could do all kinds of lightweight entertainment hosting gigs instead of choosing the heavy lifting of creating a new show to educate and raise the chins of discouraged Latinos. “Some of the best advice I ever got was from Ricardo Montalban; he told me: ‘The key to success is to be like a horse with blinders on so you stay on course. Don’t look left or right; don’t get distracted. Just concentrate on your goal, and stay on that road no matter what.’” Yet, it is normal to be distracted in Hollywood, where so many dead-end roads 30 • April 2014

pointing to success yield only failure. Negativity is what motivated Cacho to leave her Univision news anchor gig in Texas where she had built a slow but steady career from weather forecaster to weekend anchor. Because of the time she invested, Jackeline had built a loyal following. But the nature of her job was killing her spirit.

“Every day, reporting the bad, negative news — it was terrible.” Cacho said, exhaling. “I knew I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my career!” Propelled into action, Cacho reinvented herself, searching far and wide for the right partner to launch a show focused on positive stories. That too, proved to be a winding road.

Chavez Connection

“Some of the best advice I ever got was from Ricardo Montalban; he told me: ‘The key to success is to be like a horse with blinders on so you stay on course. Don’t look left or right; don’t get distracted. Just concentrate on your goal, and stay on that road no matter what.’”

“Cesar Chavez proved that everything starts with a dream,” Cacho said. “You have to have a dream.” Cacho took up the torch for Diego Luna’s movie early on — in fall of 2013. Her production team taped an hour-long show, and before that, they screened the film for 500 kids at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, erected on the site where RFK, the good friend and staunch supporter of Cesar Chavez, was assassinated. The reaction was overwhelming and underscores who the film most inspires: Latino kids. “It was amazing to see after the movie — kids were crying.” Cacho is emotional at the recollection, the heartbreaking reaction of kids for whom Cesar Chavez is only a name on a street sign. “They said things like ‘I never knew I had someone who is a leader.’ Some children found new respect for their hardworking parents, confessing to Cacho: “They [my parents] have a humble job, but this is who I am, and now, I can be proud.” Cacho is not out of the woods, but she is close. “Nothing good comes overnight, and if it does, it goes away the same way.“

By now, long-established in Texas, Cacho was offered a job in 2007 Los Angeles with TV Azteca, which she accepted only to find that shortly after she pulled up roots and moved to LA, Azteca relocated its production to Mexico. “I had just moved from Texas. I didn’t want to move to Mexico!” Fortunately, Cacho didn’t have to. Taking her courage and investing in her idea for a positive, upbeat show, Cacho shopped her idea around with Mexican director Thene Mucino, her fiancé and head of their production company, Finding Productions. “It took forever for us to find the right people,” said Cacho. They held their dream tight. “We believe we are accomplishing what we intended. People ask me; ‘Have you spent a lot money; have you lost money; have you invested?’ The answer was yes, to all of it.” Three seasons in, she is seeing the rewards of her faith in the future. With “Jackeline Cacho Presents Latino Triumphs,” Cacho tells the true, uplifting, inspiring success stories she loves. “We need these stories—our community needs the encouragement, the inspiration and motivation.” She still reels from the long struggle. “It was so difficult to get this going — you can’t imagine. … But whenever I think that I am having a hard time, I think about the astronaut and role model Jose Hernandez.” “I had him on the show, and he told his story. He was turned down again and again—he had to try 13 times before he was accepted!” she said. “Can you believe it? Most of us will try three times knocking at the same door and give up!”

Cacho is still astonished.

“Women are in the center of families; we nurture; we give everything. We need to work on ourselves work on our education, spiritually, emotionally; we want to feel Proud.”

Throwback talent Jackeline Cacho was noted as one of Latino Leaders Magazine’s Wealth Creators in 2013 and was also named a Club Leader of the Future in 2011.

32 • April 2014

“But he kept coming back,” she said, laughing. “He is such an example, and now, he goes around speaking to children helping them to understand the importance of education.” Education is a big topic for Cacho, who calls herself the “queen of edutainment.” Cacho was shocked when people at the network tried to discourage her from doing the show. “A lot of people think that education doesn’t sell, but I’m going into the third season. I have the feeling the seeds I planted eight years ago are finally sprouting. “When you make a change, it is difficult. It is still difficult. After a year on air, I got a 30-minute show; now, it’s on every weekend. The shows get better. We wanted a real show with real people, not stories of singers or top models.” Hilda Solis and Dolores Huerta, both prominent role models, did the show. And many national organizations support the show. “Women are in the center of families; we nurture; we give everything. We need to work on ourselves work on our education, spiritually, emotionally; we want to feel proud. Look, you will always fail. Doors have closed in my face because am a producer as well. We have to hear no. We have to be strong.

Network of Talent Photos by Jason


David E. Arreaga “This is the launchpad for the projects that Mexicans have. We are always looking for new ideas to help Mexicans develop business and technology projects to engage with the world.”

The Talent (From left to right) Consulate members: • Sergio Alcocer, undersecretary of North America • David E. Arreaga, president of Red de Talentos • Claudia Hermann, president of the Association of Businesswomen and Professionals • Omar Costilla, vice president of Red de Talentos • Jose Miguel Lopez, CEO of Mito Financial • Virginia Arteaga-Haid, founding partner of Dienst International Consulting Services LLC • Adrian Avendano, UT Dallas graduate research assistant • Jose Octavio Tripp Villanueva, consul general of Dallas • Rodolfo Hernandez Guerrero, UT Dallas director of Office of International Education

34 • April 2014

Omar Costilla

Claudia Hermann

“Sometimes, Americans have a stereotype about Mexicans; we’re trying to explain the real essence of our culture and show the good face of our culture and what it is really about.”

“For me, this opportunity will create a circulation of impacting projects for both sides of the border that can benefit Mexicans who live here and those who are in Mexico.”and technology projects to engage with the world.”

With the goal of having an international impact, the Mexican consulate in Dallas is gathering expatriates throughout the U.S. for a networking and mentorship program called “Red de Talentos,” which will work with a new generation of Mexicans to enhance a community spirit that will motivate Mexicans to innovation in science, mathematics, business, art, culture and sports.

Rodolfo Hernandez Guerrero “This is a great opportunity to engage the leadership of North Texas in the different capacities of this network. In my case, that is to expose Mexicans to higher education here in the U.S.”

Juan Miguel Lopez

Virginia Arteaga-Haid

“It has been an honor to be part of a very strong team, an organization in which we are creating leaders who in the future will take the reins of this great nation with a people who are bilingual, bicultural and successful.”

“It’s giving me the opportunity to mentor future projects. I’m going to working with people with great potential. … They are the ones who will be working on future projects with global impact.”

Adrian Avendano “We have a huge value and can be considered a force in order to change how society works here in the U.S. It’s a great advantage to connect with people with the your same origins … and they can guide young people who are barely coming out of school in how to add value to society.”

Laying a foundation for the future Story by Laura


Photos by Raul


Hailing from one of Miami’s most respected entrepreneurial families, Melissa Medina is on a mission to better the communities and industry of her hometown. Check the gallery of this interview

36 • April 2014


s president of the Medina Family Foundation and vice president of strategic engagement for the Technology Foundation of the Americas, TFA, Melissa Medina is in a fortunate and unique position to provide funds and resources to Miami’s underserved and to offer expert insight into raising Miami to the status of a technological hub. Through her vast network and integral partnerships with other nonprofits and the business community at large, Medina is proving that one person can make a big difference. Medina holds her family’s history close, remembering that success has come out of struggle. “[My father] came here from Cuba with nothing, not knowing the language,” she says. “I think to myself, ‘Could I pack up my kids and go to another country where I don’t even know the language and hope they have a decent future?’” Her father is noted Miami entrepreneur Manny Medina, founder of thenreal estate development company, Terremark. In the late

tion was created specifically to give Throwback talent Melissa Medina was named one back to the community that had of Latino Leaders Magazine’s Club provided so much to the famLeaders of the Future in February ily. Medina calls her position as 2014. See her passion depicted in foundation president “a tremenher own words from the Miami CLF dous opportunity,” describing the event coverage starting on mission as fronting local initiatives page 70. that focus on mentoring children and empowering families by enhancing education and quality of life. The organization partners with a number of local nonprofits, spreading resources across various projects with a shared goal. Medina closely involves herself with each partner organization: “I sit on their boards, help with initiatives that each are working on, introduce them to my network and try to get others to help these organizations. I really try to immerse myself in the philanthropic world of Miami.” Medina notes that there is a direct relationship between poverty and children not having substantial opportunities.

“I really try to immerse myself in the philanthropic world of Miami.”

1990s, he immersed himself and his company in technology, moving Terremark out of real estate and into the tech industry. Having grown up amid her father’s successful ventures, it was no surprise that Melissa Medina went on to study business, earning a bachelor’s in business administration and master’s in international business from the University of Florida, as well as taking time to study business management at the exclusive ESADE School of Business in Barcelona, Spain. In 2011, Verizon Communications acquired Terremark for $1.4 billion. That same year, the Medina Family Founda38 • April 2014

Dividing her time is Medina’s other full-time job as vice president of strategic engagement for TFA, a nonprofit started in 2012 with the long-term goal of establishing Miami as the technology hub of the Americas. Her responsibilities include identifying and supporting initiatives that promote TFA’s mission, including collaborations and partnerships with community organizations. The group’s current focus is an ambitious inaugural conference called eMerge Americas, scheduled for early May, which will act as a catalyst to connect the Americas through innovation and technology

and shine a spotlight on the key trends driving the Latin American IT market. “We’re going to focus on six different sectors and how technology is driving those sectors: health care, media entertainment, finance, government, education and innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Medina. She analogizes the conference to Art Basel, an annual, internationally-known event that has promoted global recognition of the local art community. “Miami has always been seen by the rest of the world as a vacation spot, but Miami is transforming right now into a multicultural art destination, and there are so many opportunities that we, as a city, have,” she says. “This conference will not only affect the technology industry but industries across the board. It’s going to put Miami on the map for more than tourism.” Medina’s plate is full with two leadership positions for seemingly unrelated organizations; however, she admits that it helps to have both offices sharing a workspace and creative synergy. In addition, she is happy to

take advantage of her dual employment to share resources and networks. Medina engages the Medina Family Foundation community partners for support of Emerge Americas. Medina Family Foundation partner Miami Children’s Hospital, she cites as an example, is heavily involved in Emerge Americas’ health care track. Likewise, as Technology Foundation of the Americas focuses on technology and education, part of its extended mission is to create youth-based programs and internships with community partners.

“Miami has always been seen by the rest of the world as a vacation spot, but Miami is transforming right now into a multicultural art destination, and there are so many opportunities that we, as a city, have,”

As to Medina’s future goals, she is committed to helping TFA drive the tech industry in Miami to new heights and is adamant that Medina Family Foundation will continue along its mission for years to come. “We will ensure that we invest our funds properly so the foundation will be around as long as I’m here, as long as my kids are here, so that we’re able to create a long-term impact in our city.”

Stepping into the future With vision, revitalization and resolve, Dorene Dominguez has made an imprint on the world of engineering. Story by Esther

Check the gallery of this interview 42 • April 2014


Photos by John



orene Dominguez’s insight to

rebrand herself and her company has transformed her into a Latina who is dedicated to making a lasting impact on her community and on the world through her compassion and innovation. Since stepping in as CEO and chairwoman of the Vanir Group of Companies 10 years ago, Dominguez has led the multimillion-dollar business to expand each of its three sectors - real estate development, construction management and energy. “I have a passion for this company,” Dominguez said. “I want to build a legacy, not just a company. I don’t have an exit strategy.” In 2004, Dominguez’s life was forever changed after the loss of her father, the man who started the business in 1964 and built it from the ground up. His death left a vacancy at Vanir, and the weight of his absence would always remain with his daughter. “When I lost him, I think I lost not just a father, mentor …” Dominguez paused in remembrance. “…the many lessons learned from my father continue to guide me every day.” Instead of caving under the grief of her gaping loss, Dominguez vowed to make her father’s company even stronger than before. The Notre Dame graduate found that in order for the company to continue its relevance, the company would have to reinvent itself to maintain sustainability. The first step of Vanir’s metamorphosis was expanding the business to have a global impact. The Vanir Group of Companies’ 26 offices span from Sacramento to Denver to New Orleans to Dubai and each focuses on ethical, creative and cost-effective measures of construction and engineering. Of the company’s current projects, the most notable is the construction of a hospital system in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Based out of the Dubai office, the plan is to create facilities that would hold 1,500 hospital beds, with transportation running freely through them, essentially creating a “medical city,” as Dominguez calls it. “It is a huge undertaking,” Dominguez admits. Expanding the geographic reach of the company is not the only improvement that Vanir has produced. Vanir’s newest initiative of renewable 44 • April 2014

Throwback talent

Dorene Dominguez was recognized for her leadership when she was named as a Latino Leaders Maestro in 2012.

energy, which started more than five years ago, looks to promote a more efficient and effective way to maintain the environment while giving the customer a quality product. Fletcher Business Park, the company’s first solar-thermal energy project, is an example of Vanir’s innovation brought to reality. The North Carolina facility uses 30,000 square feet of solar panels spread across the building’s rooftop to catch UV

“In order to make this environment better, we need to be more conscious of the need to reduce carbon emissions on a worldwide basis, not just in the United States. It starts with the individual,” Dominguez said “Regardless of whether you’re in construction or education or wine making, if you’re kind to the environment – if you care about your community, I think all of that comes back. And it’s not measured in dollars, but it’s measured by goodwill.” That spirit of goodwill is evident through the rapport she maintains in her professional relationships. With a work ethic founded on integrity and truth, Dominguez attributes her success to maintaining a solid foundation. “I believe that culture and valuing your employees

“In engineering, we solve problems. I think engineering is a gateway to making life better, to making the world better, and I love what I do. I love the fact that the people that work for me are very committed in that vision and our culture of helping others.” rays to create a heating/cooling system with the energy that is attained, according to a December 2008 press release. Additionally, one of Vanir’s newest projects, the California ISO, converts light energy into electrical energy through its solar roofing system. According to a Vanir fact sheet, the Solar Power Generation Facility, completed in December 2010, saves 1,200,000 annual kilowatts of energy use, avoids 1,800,000 annual pounds of CO2 emissions and results in cleaner air with 4,500 planted trees. As Vanir looks to the future, Dominguez emphasizes the importance of personal choices that create global change.

and valuing your integrity, truth and honesty are very key to success.” That value of her colleagues is seen and noticed by those around her like Gilbert R. Vasquez, managing partner of Vasquez and Company. Vasquez first worked with Dominguez’s father in the mid-1970s and is now a board member for construction management at Vanir, and he can attest to the care that Dominguez gives to those around her. Building a better world After going through Vanir focuses on the construction and engineering of faciliintense knee ties for education, the justice system, water/wastewater, surgery, Vasquez transportation and public health. received flowers In the past 10 years, about 40 new schools have been completed as a result of Vanir’s programs, project or confrom Dominguez struction management services, and 350 existing schools while recovering in have seen renovations, additions or modernizations. the hospital. For the same or similar services, Vanir has completed “She was the about seven new hospitals and clinics and projects in only one who about 50 existing facilities. sent me flowers,” Vasquez said. Source: Vanir Construction Management

46 • April 2014

“She does all of these things that make her unique as a CEO. For someone as important as her, she takes the time to be thoughtful and caring. “ Though Vanir’s legacy is tied to its expansion, innovation and the value of its employees, Dominguez realizes that continuing a legacy is contingent on honoring the past while moving forward. “The Vanir Foundation seeks to create pathways to success by improving children’s lives, and that’s something that my father always believed in. I put together the foundation so that we could begin reaching out to schools in underserved communities and partnering with them” We build buildings, but the real key is changing lives.”

“I believe that culture and valuing your employees and valuing your integrity, truth and honesty are very key to success.” Through Vanir Foundation-sponsored programs such as Engineering is Elementary, children are able to see the fun applications of science by using simple tools to benefit their lives and the lives of those around them. In one exercise, the children use solar voltaic solar panel ovens made of aluminum foil to bake cookies. “They were so excited to learn about clean energy and the important role that everyone can play in protecting our environment.” Dominguez sees a bright future as a new generation of Latinos continue in her footsteps to change the future of society through engineering. “In engineering, we solve problems. I think engineering is a gateway to making life better, to making the world better, and I love what I do. I love the fact that the people that work for me are very committed in that vision and our culture of helping others.”

Story by Johnathan

Silver Photos provided by Leticia Van de Putte

tejana on the ticket

Is she Texas’ next Lieutenant Governor? Meet Leticia Van de Putte.

48 • April 2014


eticia Van de Putte’s in it for her

grandchildren. The Texas state senator from San Antonio threw her name into the race for lieutenant governor last year. Now the Democratic nominee for the contest, Van de Putte is in general election mode. Her top priorities: education for children, serving the community, investments in transportation infrastructure and Texas’ water supply, investment in small businesses, empowering women and honoring those who have served in the armed forces. What do all of these issues have in common? They concern Texas’ future generations — the reason that Van de Putte entered the race. “It was my grandchildren and my children,” she said. “It was, for me, that promise; it’s the ‘promesa’ that we always make to the next generation.” And other contenders for arguably the most powerful job in the state just don’t cut it for ensuring a brighter future, she said. “For me, it was looking and examining the candidates that were running for lieutenant governor and the vision that they were proposing and the harsh rhetoric that was really being used as they promoted their issues and the politics of fear and divisiveness,” Van de Putte said, “and I said ‘no.’ I am compelled to offer a different vision for my state.” Van de Putte’s electoral career in Texas launched with her 1990 win of a Texas House of Representatives seat. A pharmacist by profession, she was a business owner by experience, with a pharmacy and medical clinic, and had six children who were then younger than 10. “Of the five men running, none of them were really talking about the issues that I thought were important: small business, the power of early childhood education, health care and preventative health. And so I put my name in the hat, so to speak, and – I won,” she said. “It was something that was not expected by even the best political pundits, but I was the neighborhood pharmacist still living in the area that I grew up in, and I had been involved in my community,” she said, highlighting involvement in her children’s education and listing various community organizations she’s worked with and advisory boards she’s sat on.

50 • April 2014

Latinos across the country do this every day, Van de Putte noted. They’re being engaged in their communities, she added. “For many Latinos who think they’re not prepared when they seek office, they really are because we’ve been doing the work and the public service in the community,” Van de Putte said. “You don’t think about it in those terms. You just think this is what we’re supposed to do. This is how we live in our community. I never realized that all this time when I was working with different groups that I was building a network, but it was a powerful one and one enough to get me elected.” When Van de Putte first arrived in the Capitol, there was little female representation and even fewer Latinas, with one serving in the Texas House and the other in the Texas Senate. But that didn’t deter her. She did approach her children about a run for the Texas Legislature, though, and found an interesting alternative point of view.

“My littlest one asked, ‘Well, why does mommy want to be a state representative,’” Van de Putte said, “and my oldest daughter said, ‘Because there’s not enough mommies there,’ and it clicked, and it was absolutely true.”

“My littlest one asked, ‘Well, why does mommy want to be a state representative,’” Van de Putte said, “and my oldest daughter said, ‘Because there’s not enough mommies there,’ and it clicked, and it was absolutely true.” From businesswoman to state representative to senator to candidate for lieutenant governor, the San Antonio democrat has amassed much influence throughout Texas. “As a pharmacist, I listen. I’ve known for 33 years, when I’m visiting with patients, when visiting with other health care professionals that you have to listen. And that skill of listening is very important in a leader,” Van de Putte said, pitching herself for the No. 2 job. She continued: “And then what I try to do is provide a forum, a structure to allow patients to

Throwback talent

Leticia Van de Putte was recognized for the Latino Leaders Magazine Maestro Awards in 2010 for her dedication to Latinos she represents and for the strides she has made as a Latina in politics.

make good decisions about their quality of life. That’s what I do as a legislator. I listen, and then I work with people to help provide an environment so that the people in this state, and particularly in my district, can make good decisions, but they have to have that framework. Well, the purpose of government is to have that framework so that individual citizens and families can make those decisions. It’s [about] listening and working as a team.” As for colleagues in Austin, that characteristic can be hard to come by. But for Van de Putte, it has been about listening, whether when working with nonprofits, the business community and other legislators, regardless of party ID. “Are you here to help? Are you engaged? Do you love this state? Do you care? That’s the beauty of a representative democracy,” she said. “… It’s about making sure that we have a Texas that is a better place to grow up and raise a family and start a business and let it thrive. It’s a place where you can have a life with dignity, and that’s what drives me.” And people across the state who meet with 52 • April 2014

the state senator have said they noticed that. “They have hope again, they are energetic, and they’re enthusiastic,” she said. Compelling stories on the campaign trail are in abundance, Van de Putte said. Such stories include those from people affected by budget cuts impacting public education, small-business owners determined to succeed but feel they are being left out because of taxes in the state and people frightened about the cost of higher education. “They are so scared that their kids will be priced out of a college education,” the senator said, referencing stories from voters. Van de Putte also said business community leaders have told her they are frustrated that the state’s Republican leadership “has kicked the can down the road” by not moving forward on transportation infrastructure, and farmers are concerned about adequate water supply in the state. “There are so many compelling stories. Everybody has one,” Van de Putte said. “And that’s why I think I see this enthusiasm and

“You’re going to see Latinas in public offices more, and you’re going to see them in the state legislatures, in local elected [positions], in boardrooms, in both the not-forprofit sectors and the business community — they’re going to be agents of change.”

excitement about me running — because they see a different type of leader, a different type of person.” Hearing these stories required Van de Putte’s saying “yes” to an election. And it wasn’t an easy decision. In 2013, she and her family dealt with the passing of five loved ones, including an infant grandson, her father and her mother-inlaw. When friends and allies approached Van de Putte about a run, she and family had to factor those losses in a decision, along with the rigor of a campaign, notably the fire from the Right. “I didn’t know if my family would be strong enough to withstand that,” she said, “and I didn’t even know if I could ask them to do that.” Some of the political viciousness she predicted would come her family’s way made its way into numerous advertisements across the state in political ads for Republican primary contests, with candidates taking ultraright positions on many nationalized topics, especially immigration reform. When Van de Putte heard “the increased harshness in the tone and vision,” she thought, “That’s not what I want for my babies.” Winning is fun, but in the case of elections it’s more than that, Van de Putte said. It’s important because it affects public policy, she added. “I know I can win this.” Van de Putte first has to defeat either incumbent David Dewhurst or challenger state Sen. Dan Patrick in November. Republicans, in many cases, are campaigning with “wedge issues” such as the health care law, immigration reform and most of what President Barack Obama champions, Van de Putte noted. It’s irresponsible, she said. “When the other side is making fools of themselves, just don’t interrupt,” Van de Putte said. “I don’t think that’s what mainstream, everyday Texans are really thinking.” Van de Putte, self-described as pro-business and a centrist Democrat, said Texas Republican leaders are “so far to one side, it’s like they’re being pulled over the cliff.” The senator has been the target of such attacks. Most notably, she and her colleague, state Sen. Wendy Davis, Democratic nominee for governor, are tied to policies

Obama pushes and issues in Washington and across the country. “I’m not running for U.S. Congress,” Van de Putte said. “I’m not running for U.S. Senator. I’m running for the responsibility of being the lieutenant governor of the state of Texas.” Regardless of the highs and lows of the campaign, Van de Putte is one of the most high-profile Latinas in Texas politics, but she looks to colleagues, including state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, of Laredo, and others who make a difference in the private sector and on the ground in their communities. Texas doesn’t have many Latinas in public office (no member of Congress from Texas has been a Latina), but that should change soon, Van de Putte said. “You’re going to see Latinas in public offices more, and you’re going to see them in the state legislatures, in local elected [positions], in boardrooms, in both the not-for-profit sectors and the business community — they’re going to be agents of change.” Young Latinas are taking notice and feel inclined to get politically involved, Van de Putte observes. “When I go to events and schools where there are young Latinas, they want to take a photo; they want to share that they started paying attention,” she said. “They talk about what their dreams are, and I think they see that there is a woman who is unafraid to stand up for her community.” Van de Putte is aware of the issues that affect the Latino community in Texas, but it’s all about positively affecting the lives of everyone in the state, she said. “There is a part of me that understands that our growing demographic demands that we do our utmost to educate the children who are in that demographic of poverty, and that’s a growing demographic in my state,” Van de Putte said. “It’s not that they’re Latino. It can be any child of any race or any background, but if they have that commonality and demographic of poverty, that’s our challenge, and it’s a challenge that we can make into an opportunity. How we educate those children will decide the future of Texas. That will decide what our per capita income is. That will decide our future workforce. That will decide how much businesses will be successful in selling their goods and services. So I don’t think you can say it is only Latinos, but for the majority of these issues, the Latino population has the most to gain or the most to lose.” Van de Putte reiterated the importance of addressing not just the needs of the Latino community. “I am intensely proud of my Tejano heritage, that I understand that for Texas to be successful, it is with the respect of all Texans and the confidence of all Texans, not just one group,” Van de Putte said. “We may be the growing majority, but we need to make sure we take care of the core issues, and those issues aren’t African-American. Those aren’t Latino. Those aren’t Asian — those are Texas issues.”

L at ino Le a de r s

Build it, and they will thrive: The towering ideals of architect

Sandra Vivanco

Story by Judi


Photos provided by

Scott Lord and Sandra Vivanco

Award-winning San Francisco architect, Fulbright scholar, entrepreneur and professor of architecture and diversity and chairwoman of diversity studies at California College of The Arts, Sandra I. Vivanco is the founding principal of A+D, Architecture and Design, in San Francisco. Her subtle, organic approach in creating structures and curriculum is driven by function rather than attention. Based on the premise that inclusiveness and excellence in design can and should coexist, the work of A+D has been recognized globally. 54 • April 2014

L at ino Le a de r s

L at ino Le a de r s


andra Vivanco’s thoughtful work has resonated in Japan, Portugal, Italy and Brazil, and although she has designed residential projects, her firm is held in high regard for her approach to public spaces in particular. Plaza Adelante, a community service and art center for Latino immigrants garnered recognition of her work. Vivanco’s socially committed heart also beats for the New Mission Housing project in association with the architecture firm, Kwan Henmi. As a recognition of her work on this project, Vivanco was selected Architect of Community as one of 10 architects to watch featured in California Home & Design Magazine in 2010. Her personal mantra is consistent throughout her 20-plus years in the business: Vivanco said her unwavering goal is to use architecture to serve the public rather than to build a name for herself. Underscoring this, Vivanco serves on the board of two important community organizations in San Francisco: Good Samaritan, the first settlement house on the West Coast, serving immigrant families to overcome the challenges of poverty and displacement, and the Brazilian Association for the Support and Development of the Art of Capoeira, a cultural and arts center that works with at-risk youth. She constantly mentors architecture minority students and professionals. She concedes that her path has not been easy. With two daughters, the sheer logistics of caring for them as a single mother while pursuing her career were mind-boggling. “Even something as simple as breastfeeding your child was impossible with the open floor plans that architecture firms have.” At a very young age, Vivanco introduced her daughters to her world of architecture and engineering. “When they were small, I’d drag them on trips to Peru — the Inca ruins — they’d

sleep on the busses; they enjoyed it. They are fluent in Spanish, and I put them to work when we traveled through Latin America as interpreters,” Vivanco said, laughing. “It empowered them.” Even as a mom, Vivanco was a mentor. Motherhood challenges aside, making her way through the thorny obstacle course encountered by aspiring female architects to her present level of achievement sounds like an early episode of “Mad Men.” It makes the traditionally male-driven world of advertising seem positively enlightened. On the “‘front lines” as a professor, Vivanco sees the beginning semester classrooms evenly populated with females and males, and she witnesses the excitement women have for bringing their vision to the world. She also sees the number of female students shrink as the semesters wear on. “We have a long way to go — I’m also upset at lack of equal pay for equal work,” Vivanco said. “Architecture requires a rare combination of technical and artistic skills; it was always driven by engineering; the National Institute of Engineering; the second-oldest institution, teaches 40 kinds of engineering — the only women in the entire school are in architectural engineering.” Beyond the sheer challenge of learning post graduation, a combination of societal assumptions factored into her discouragement, such as old-school attitudes toward women on construction sites. With nothing to prove, Vivanco’s appearance at her own construction sites is low-key, and she is often mistaken for “a visitor, wife or girlfriend of someone — anyone except the actual architect.” Vivanco laughs and relates being questioned on her own project building sites by clueless construction workers and managers who were “wondering what I was doing there.”

A+D 56 • April 2014

L at ino Le a de r s

D Less excusable is being snubbed by a client. “Sometimes, it’s the little stuff,” she said. “If I have a male partner, they will shake his hand but won’t shake mine, and it’s not easy with our people — Latin men are not the exception.” But, of course, this does not happen with the right clients. “You have an immediate connection, a shared understanding; but it’s still the same. You have to prove yourself.” The good news? Her design firm A+D, has become San Francisco’s go-to for Latino-centric projects, and a long-cherished dream was awarded to her firm as the local architects. And it’s not just any old bodega; this particularly exciting new project has been 10 years in development — the future Mexican Museum at Yerba Buena Gardens in joint venture with Pfau Long promises to be another one of Sandra’s success stories. Prior successful completions include the Potrero Hill Neighborhood Center, William R. De Avila Elementary School, Harding Park Golf Club-

“ A lot of creativity comes from these places. Look at the music and art of Cuba, Brazil coming out of conditions of density. … Bringing this thinking to others about the special politics of the informal settlements with music and movement is exciting.”


house, California Federal Bank, offices for tech firms Atlassian and Dataway, and the list goes on. A+D recently completed a Pacific Gas and Electric Company-sponsored feasibility study for Bay View Hunter’s Point and Plaza Adelante, a community service and art center for Latino immigrants. The Hunters Point Power Plant design and study marks the transformation of an old power plant into an uplifting residential complex uniquely created to serve the existing community not shut them out. “Nobody represents people with limited means; I got into this work as a way to represent them. Good architecture should not be a luxury. I believe this is a kind of environmental justice.” The gentrification of San Francisco is pushing out the life of the city in Vivanco’s estimation. She asserts that crowded cities produce more art per capita. “Density in cities is a big factor in art. The denser, the more alive. “ A lot of creativity comes from these places. Look at the music and art of Cuba, Brazil coming out of conditions of density. … Bring58 • April 2014

ing this thinking to others about the special politics of the informal settlements with music and movement is exciting.” From working with her idol, Portuguese Pritzker prizewinner Alvaro Siza in 1990, Vivanco experienced “His thru line — a high sense of civic engagement, social equity, leaving a lasting mark. “I am very well positioned as a Latin American cultural expert to be able to synthesize those elements,” she said softly. Vivanco said the architecture needs to change as the racial demographics change. She was surprised that though many speak Spanish on the streets of San Francisco, there is no representation.


“There is an arts district around the civic center, a new jazz center counterpart for community, Jewish museum, African diaspora — we didn’t have a Mexican Latin American art museum! The Yerba Buena Museum has been getting off the ground for 10 years.”

“There is an arts district around the civic center, a new jazz center counterpart for community, Jewish museum, African diaspora — we didn’t have a Mexican Latin American art museum! The Yerba Buena Museum has been getting off the ground for 10 years.” A public and private partnership had to be vetted, and collaboration is key. It is evident that many building projects are based on a delicate balance of creative and professional respect in addition to an enormous amount of patience and persistence. In the midst of all this, Vivanco never loses sight of her personal ethos. “I mentor, especially of late, young Latinos in architecture out of school less than 10 years. LIA, Latinos in Architecture, is very successful—they have chapters now started in Houston and San Francisco. It gives me a lot of satisfaction.” If given the chance, Vivanco knows which city she would rebuild. “New Orleans — so much food, art, cultures and yet so depressed in so many ways. It would make an incredible challenge.”

Diana Albarran Chicas is living the American Dream despite early hardships and discrimination. Most of her success can be traced to the constant support of her family.

From strawberry fields to Story by Joel

Kranc Photos by Jessica Lifland

60 • April 2014



o one would

accuse me of being an underachiever,” Diana Albarran Chicas said. Yet everything about her early childhood, her struggles as a Mexican immigrant and the overall struggles faced by Latina women in America would not necessarily have led her to where she is today. Currently, Albarran Chicas serves as an engineering manager in the Nearfield Range test facility with SSL in Palo Alto, California. She manages a team of 10 people who test the antenna systems of satellites destined for space. Prior to her eight years with SSL and after having graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Albarran Chicas was part of a small team of engineers with startup firm Thermal Electric Engineering Corporation.

The Road Less Traveled

Born in San Cristobal Guerrero, Mexico, Albarran Chicas moved to the United States at the age of 5. Before leaving, her father had a night shift job with PepsiCo, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. “We moved to Southern California, and my parents worked in the strawberry fields,” she explains, “a lot of time was spent moving around to where the fields were.” Albarran Chicas’ father, on a prior visit to the United States, had seen that education through high school was free, unlike in their native Mexico. “Because my dad was a visionary and wanted education to be a big part of the family and opportunity,” the decision had been made to move, she notes. “He completely understood the dynamics of what life would be like for us if we had stayed in Mexico versus opportunities we could potentially have by coming to the United States.” Unfortunately, the family arrived undocumented and was forced to live with 10 to 15 other people with no room to themselves. “Our living quarters were narrowed down to sleeping underneath the dining room table,” she recalls, as opposed to Mexico where her father had saved enough money to build their own home. It was not until Albarran Chicas was in fourth grade that her parents were able to build their own home — a home they live in to this day. Because of her abilities, she took and passed the Gifted and Talented test administered in California that allowed her to take advanced classes in middle school. Through these classes and her association with other kids who came from parents practicing law or medicine 62 • April 2014

or other professions, “I started to become more aware of the opportunities out there,” Albarran Chicas says.

“ We really needed to do something to motivate young Latinas to encourage careers in STEM.”

school with less than two weeks to put the application together. “As soon as I got to the campus, I fell in love with the school.” In 1999, with support from her parents, Albarran Chicas moved to Massachusetts and began her studies that led to her current career.


“It was actually the high school years that I faced very blatant discrimination – one, because I was Latina and two, because my parents were self-conscious about speaking English,” she says. “I was called many names. I was told to go back to Mexico, and even when I got into MIT, one of the comments was that it was because I was a minority and a woman,” she recalls. “As open and as welcoming as MIT was, I realized I was going to face that in industry, and it prepared me for that,” she adds. Even though she knew that people would look at her differently or that she might be the only Latina woman in the room, Albarran Chicas decided that her work would always speak for her.

Empowering others in science, technology, engineering and math

The path for Albarran Chicas continued through high school, where she took advanced classes, participated in extracurricular activities and realized she would go to college. “If they can do it, then I can do it, too,” she says of her thinking at the time. “As a result, I became immersed in that mentality of this is where I am going, and this is what I am going to do.” Through a summer program called STAR, Students Towards Advanced Readiness, offered through the University of California Riverside, Albarran Chicas realized engineering was the career she wanted to pursue. Without knowing MIT even existed, Albarran Chicas took the advice of her student counselor and applied to the

In 2013, Albarran Chicas co-founded the Latinas in STEM Foundation. “We really needed to do something to motivate young Latinas to encourage careers in STEM,” she adds. This foundation provides information to middle school and high school students about STEM opportunities. Reflecting on her career, Albarran Chicas says her parents have been one of, if not the greatest, motivators for her success. And, she says despite hardships and discrimination, everyone is his or her own brand. “You have to be your own advocate in your career and not expect to have someone tell you, you deserve this. It doesn’t work that way.”


Universe Story and Photos by Emilia


Dallas artist Patricia Rodriguez discusses how she found her calling and being a Latina artist. 64 • April 2014



he quaint, red brick house vibrantly stands out in an otherwise colorless neighborhood of historic Dallas. Neon spray paint stains the concrete porch while splashes of paint coat the wooden fence. Inside, three sleepy cats lounge among the abundance of paintbrushes and tools and could build a fort with the amount of canvases aligning the walls and perched on easels. Dallas artist Patricia Rodriguez’s Oak Cliff home is the epitome of an artist’s house. Among the organized chaos, soft music plays, and she begins talking about her beginnings and why being a “starving artist”

isn’t so bad. Born one out of five children to a mechanic father from Monterrey, Mexico and factory worker mother from East, Texas, Rodriguez was exposed to art early on. “My oldest sister was also an artist,” she said. “So I got to grow up in that environment of always having art around, and I just knew from the minute I saw it that that’s what I wanted to do.”

66 • April 2014

After attending a middle school and high school that allowed students to explore various mediums of fine art, Rodriguez knew she was attracted to painting and to the business behind the art industry. Although she was working in galleries and learning the ins and outs of the business, she knew she wasn’t creating or producing the art that she envisioned and decided it was time to progress. “It was hard being around it (art) because I never had the time to do it,’ Rodriguez said. The absence of creating art was important enough for Rodriguez to save her money and quit her eight-year job at the Dallas Museum of Art. And at that moment, Rodriguez assumed her identity as an artist. “I think the universe kind of has a way of telling you when you’re not where you need to be,” she said. “You will feel it. I didn’t feel like I was contributing anything to the world, and I didn’t feel useful, and I didn’t like that feeling. I knew that was my calling.” So she began painting, with earlier influences of Frida Kahlo and portraiture. But natured played the biggest role in her creations. “Nature is a big inspiration in my work, and it’s therapeutic for me to be around nature. I can only handle so much of being in the city,” Rodriguez said. In 2010, her life took a big turn that most would think would bring out darkness and unhappy imagery.

“I think the universe kind of has a way of telling you when you’re not where you need to be. You will feel it.”

But instead her style changed for the better. “My father passed away, and yeah, there’s pain but it’s my idea of how I would like things to be: happy and bright.” This is easily seen in her work with the abundance of neon colors perfectly intertwining into graphic design-inspired canvases of flat imagery. Just when you think you’ve figured out where all the vines, leaves and flowers twist and turn, a panther appears perched on a branch. When times got hard in 2011, Rodriguez was left with little materials to work with and couldn’t afford canvas to create a piece as a contributor in a Beatles tribute show. But as a musician and fan of the 60s generation, what she did have was plenty of old, scratched vinyl records lying around her house, so she started painting. “I thought they came out OK, but when I hung them up, everyone loved them, and they were sold immediately within 30 minutes,” she said. It became her niche, and she was actually able to survive for awhile just by selling records. However, she found herself still needing goods and services and not

being able to afford them. She took to Facebook and posted to see if anybody would be willing to trade her a haircut for a piece of art. This idea created the group Bartering Artists. “I thought, ‘I need this service, but I don’t have the money for it, so how can I get it? I paint, and people like my work, so maybe we can trade.’” The idea took off, and now, the group has over 1,000 members who regularly trade goods and services without using money. In 2014, Rodriguez has a new set of exciting ventures ahead of her. She was recently accepted into UGallery, which according to its website,, “is a curated online art gallery for the nation’s top mid-career and emerging artists,” and she has two big gallery showings coming up. The first one is April 25 at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas. “It’s weird because early in my career, I was finding it (being Latina) to be a hindrance on my work because you get pigeon-holed into the same kind of shows,” she said. “They expect for your work to look a certain way or for you to paint Virgin Marys, so it’s like if you’re not doing that, they don’t really accept you.”

Check the gallery of this interview

68 • April 2014

But it’s not like that anymore. “It’s gotten a lot more open-minded, and people have gotten a lot more contemporary,” she said. “So it’s very welcoming.” She is now often invited to participate in the Hispanic community, and Rodriguez’s Latin roots remind her to remain true to her upbringing while always giving back to the community. “I think the Latin culture, they have a very humble way about them, and I try to always remember my roots, remembering where I came from and being very appreciative of what my parents had to sacrifice to provide for us and to put me through school,” Rodriguez said. As her work gains more exposure, Rodriguez will continue to give back to the community by teaching art to children and hopes to leave her mark on her native city of Oak Cliff. But one thing is for sure: “You have to pay your dues.”

“It’s weird because early in my career I was finding it (being Latina) to be a hindrance on my work because you get pigeon-holed into the same kind of shows. They expect for your work to look a certain way or for you to paint Virgin Marys, so it’s like if you’re not doing that they don’t really accept you.”

Club LEADERS of the Future

Feb. 25, 2014 Seven Lounge


On Tuesday, February 25th, a group of inspiring men and women gathered at one of the Design District’s hippest lounges. Inside Seven’s garden patio, guests met before sitting down to enjoy a three-course meal to share success stories, relate with their Latino roots and plan for the future. The roundtable represented most of Latin America and while similarities were seen among the group, diversity was also seen. There were several career colleagues and old college alumni. There were successful business partners as well as startups with immense potential. Differences were debated, similarities were celebrated but there was one common goal: Lead the community into a better future. Presented with the support from:

Bryan Hughes

Joe Gonzalez

Jorge Ferraez with Miami club leaders Jose Pazos Erika Cordova

70 • April 2014

Raul Moas

Francesca Cruz

David J. Moscoso

Executive Director, Raices de Esperanza

Columnist and Actress,

Partnership Specialist, iMentor

In the early 60s, Raul Moas’ parents fled Cuba for a better life like many families— and never let him forget it. “I grew up with the Cuba of yesterday, the Cuba of my grandparents,” Raul says. In March 2011, when he visited Cuba for the first time he’s never felt more at home. “Leaving Cuba for me was the hardest thing and the defining moment,” he says. Raul life couldn’t have been better since graduating from the University of Miami in Finance and Accounting, earning his CPA license, and planning to propose to his now wife when he realized he needed to do something. “I need to find a way for people to care, to connect, to empower people, of Cuba” Raul says. Since then, Raul has been in involved with Raices de Esperanza (or Roots of Hope) and in the next six months will be launching Start Up Cuba, an organization focused on leading the young entrepreneurs on the island.

Francesca Cruz has many trades. She is an international freelance writer, journalist, and blogger as well as the features editor for Brickell magazine and Key Biscayne magazine. But she hopes that she will tap into one of the most important audiences: young women. “I’ve realized women started competing with men as if they were men and lost their feminine ideal,” Francesca says. Aside from travel writing and editing two of the most successful magazines in South Florida, Francesca is venturing into the ebook field. Traveling has allowed her to interview a wide range of people and since then has studied gender patterns. She has decided that her ebook needs to be geared towards women and shed some light onto the communication, or lack thereof, between men and women.

David J. Moscoso grew up in Little Havana and uses the downtown area as his inspiration. David graduated from Miami Dade College and joined City Year, a national program driven to decrease grade school dropout rates through mentoring and guidance. Living in Little Havana and participating in City Year couldn’t have shaped David’s future better. He is now a part of iMentor, a national nonprofit organization based in New York geared towards creating mentor-to-mentee relationships in order to increase school attendance and college enrollment rates. “Through iMentor, we can bridge that gap between the community and opportunity,” says David. He hopes iMentor will promote a greater college culture in the community.

Jose Pazos President and shareholder, Pazos, Robiana and Zapata Management Group

Not many people can say that they were part of the first team on the ground for war in Afghanistan or that they own three businesses or that they are running for state representative, but Jose Pazos can. Jose is president and shareholder of Pazos, Robiana and Zapata Management group. Jose and his current business partners help distressed condos after being taken advantage of by their homeowners association. In the management industry, not many Latinos

venture into starting their own companies, but Jose displays that proudly on his company’s name every day. “We wanted to show the big dogs that we’re here, we’re competing with you, and we’re Hispanic,” he says. Jose is also running for state representative in 2016 focusing on immigration reform and city funding.

Club LEADERS of the Future

Jessica Samo

Bryan D. Hughes

Gustavo Perez

Vice President – Group Manager, Jones Lang LaSalle

Financial Representative, Northwestern Mutual

Principal, National Leader, Cherry Bekaert

Owning a business has been one of Jessica Samo’s dreams since she was young. Jessica’s father always encouraged her to go to college and be successful. Today, Jessica works for one of the leading property companies on the globe. She started as a temp for the Jones Lang Lasalle Company and now after 10 years, she is working towards building the company’s platform with more high-profile properties in Miami but never forgetting her first goal—to manage her own business. Jessica is a firstgeneration Latina and earned her Master’s in Finance from Florida International University. “Being female, being Hispanic and being younger than most people in this industry are the three barriers you have to get through to be successful and I’ve learned to manage through that,” Jessica says. “I find myself successful in the face of adversity,” she says.

Thousands of Latin Americans can benefit from Bryan. He may not be Hispanic but he has lived and worked directly with the Latin community for several years in order to promote financial consciousness. Bryan says. Through a relationship with Northwestern Mutual and the Perez Art Museum, Bryan was able to meet several Latino professionals in South Florida. Bryan also has an active role with Northwestern Mutual’s Hispanic Pilot Program that is focused on working with organizations such as Latino Leaders to educate families on financial literacy and planning. “I want to be able to put those dollars back into the community,” Bryan says.

Gustavo immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 1998 when Hugo Chavez took power. He earned his Master’s in Finance from the University of North Carolina in 2001 and shortly after moved to Miami. When he moved to South Florida his career involved evaluating private health businesses for one of the largest CPA and advising firms in the country “The fact that we’re bilingual and we understand the culture from back home as well as the American culture is a very powerful mix.” Gustavo hopes to have the largest evaluation company in the southwest and expand our presence in the U.S and Latin America.

Club leaders mingle in Miami.

Joe Gonzalez Marketing Specialist, E&J Gallo Winery

Joe has lived in Miami for about a year and already knows how vibrant and unique the city is. Working with E&J Gallo Winery, a Californian winery dedicated to donating wine for non-profit events, Joe has increased the number of charitable events throughout Latin American and Caribbean countries from 10 events in 2012 to 80 in 2013. Originally from Houston, Joe has lived in San Antonio, Austin, and Los Angeles but he says Miami will be home for a while. “We strongly believe that instead of advertising, it’s better

72 • April 2014

to locally make a difference,” says Joe. Joe’s future lies within the wine market and continues to grow alongside nonprofit organizations.

Yaneth Lombana Lead coordinator, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Miami

Yaneth’s mother always pushed her to be independent, and that she did. She earned a degree in psychology and a master’s in social work and has traveled to almost every continent. She speaks French fluently,

joined the Peace Corps and has fought for youth advocacy any where from the Bronx to South Africa. Yaneth is a firm believer and advocate for the phrase “think globally; act locally.” Yaneth is a part of various campaigns to help spread awareness about the injustices regarding a server’s below minimum wage and the dangers it causes for diners. “Not many people know that servers live off of

tips, not wages,” she says. She is determined to change the minimum wage unfairness in the service industry while attacking other injustices like gender and Latino inequality. “Many waiters and waitresses are going into work while they’re sick because they can’t afford to take a day off, and that puts the entire restaurant’s hygiene in jeopardy,” she says.

Brandy Davila

Erika Cordova

Jennifer Heegaard

Financial Adviser, UAspire Miami

Co-founder, Mi-Lola

President, Jeje Consulting

Brandy Davila loves what she does. She helps students find funds for college. “Students will come into my office and won’t know what loans are or what a grant is,” she says. Thanks to federal funding she was able to collect, she attended Chapel Hill in North Carolina. She experienced a culture shock during college and also when she abroad in Uruguay although it is considered a Latin country. “We are all Latinos, but still so different,” she says. Combining her nutrition education and her social work she hopes to continue educating students on options. She realizes that a nonprofit organization might be the next step in her career however she’s not quite sure. “I’m not a politician. I like working with people like me,” she says.

Originally from Honduras, Erika and her family fled the country due to political unstableness and moved to Seattle. Due to the language barrier, Erika was incorrectly placed in Special Education classes instead of classes for children who spoke a different language and from then on was an advocate for human rights. She is an activist for sexual and reproductive health awareness particularly among women with Mi-Lola, an advocacy organization geared towards the wellness of colored women and young girls. “I want to work with women to change policies and access health care,” she says. Erika has been able to educate young women on their choices and has helped them make the right ones.

After moving to Miami in 1997 from Colombia, Jennifer earned her degree from the University of Miami in Political Science and naturally aspired to become a lawyer. “I wanted to save the world,” she says. But after she graduated she started working for an immigration lawyer but was laid off after 9/11. Jennifer suddenly found herself working retail for Saks Fifth Avenue during the holiday season. She quickly worked her way from retail, then to director of marketing which included opening the first Saks Fifth Avenue store in Mexico City, and eventually she would launch her own public relations, marketing events firm. Although Jennifer has worked in a wide range of fields, she says she always had a passion for helping. She’s worked with the United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees as well as the Udonis Haslem Foundation. Jennifer strongly believes in giving back. “I think it’s important to give a little of what life has given to you,” says Jennifer.

Club LEADERS of the Future Alejandro Macias Vice President, Del Sol Group

Alejandro Macias’ family moved from Mexico to the United States when he was young. He says he remembers friends of his parents who owned El Dorado, a popular furniture chain who inspired his dream of one day owning his own business. Eventually, his parents would open their own business. However, Alejandro knew the importance of an education and went on to graduate from Arizona State in Computer Systems and Finance. After graduation, Alejandro’s parents asked him to help with the family business because it was drowning. Alejandro got to work and was able to turn retail around and generate profit. Alejandro still wants to open his own business like his parents or like El Dorado.

Ron Bilbao Political director, Service Employees International Union

Ron Bilbao was born in Miami but is Venezuelan and Colombian. He has worked in politics for almost his entire life, and it’s clear to him that people will not stand for injustices anymore. For now, Ron is a part of SEIU Local 1991, a local health care union driven by medical professionals. “In Florida, we have a millions people who won’t be covered with health care, and the justice systems keeps moving forward federally but backwards legislatively,” says Ron. As a Latino and member of SEIU, Ron encourages more round-table discussions similar to the Club Members of the Future round-table to start talking about issues effecting the Latin community not only regarding health care. “As Latinos, we’re the ones that control this state. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Alexis Cardenas Director of LATAM Sales, The Kitchen

Alexis Cardenas was taught to give back at an early age. “I was taught to make the person’s life next to me a little easier,” she says. Despite her education in finance and accounting, Alexis’ course always seemed to be changing. After doing accounting, a production company bought out the company she worked for and Alexis needed to adapt to new roles at The Kitchen. The Kitchen is an international language customization company. However, Alexis felt more at home when doing missionary work like her parents in countries like Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Nicaragua and it has led her to found and fund an orphanage in Nicaragua. “I’m not quite sure where I can continue to give back and make a difference, but I know I’m ready for what comes,” she says.

Club leaders engage in conversation at Miami’s Seven Lounge.

Natalia Martinez Chief Innovation and Technology Officer, Roots of Hope

Although Natalia Martinez was born in Cuba, she has lived in Russia and Mexico before moving to the United

74 • April 2014

States when she was 11 years old. Natalia graduated from Harvard in Psychology and Government and also earned her Master’s in Organizational Psychology from Colombia. After graduating, Natalia has had experience in advertising, property management, human capital strategy and technology. Currently, Natalia is the Chief Innovation & Technology

Officer at Roots of Hope, which is dedicated to empowering Cuba through technology and creating hope for the future. In addition to her many accomplishments, Natalia founded the Miami chapter for the Awesome Foundation that awards $1000 grants monthly for innovating ideas. “I continue to seek surprises, new and different,” Natalia says.

From left, Jessica Samo, Bryan Hughes and Jorge Ferraez sit at the Club Leaders of Miami roundtable discussion.

From left: Raul Moas, Francesca Cruz, Joe Gonzalez, Jennifer Heegaard, Binsen Gonzalez and Jose Pazos

Melissa Medina

Rodrigo Gonzalez

Binsen Gonzalez

President, Medina Family Foundation

Managing Director, (Add)ventures Ad Agency

Founder and CEO, Our City Thoughts

Melissa Medina has kept family and business parallel. Melissa’s father is an active member of the Miami community and she has followed in his path. As president of the non-profit Medina Family Foundation, she has a mission to better the lives of children through mentoring, empowering families, and improving education. She gained missionary work experience visiting impoverished countries like Haiti in order to give back. “My parents were amazing role models and that’s what I always felt I needed to be,” Melissa says. Within the next few weeks, Melissa will be launching eMerge Americas, which will bring technology giants like IBM, HP, and Dell to Miami to network and connect. “Emerge Americas will be like the Art Basel of technology,” she says.

Rodrigo Gonzalez majored in liberal studies and is open-minded about his future. “I find my course is open to new experiences and when opportunities to arise, I’ll run full speed toward them,” he says. Born in Bolivia, Rodrigo worked as a political advisor for the county of Miami-Dade. He now works for an ad agency based out of Rhode Island. With offices in Miami, a major hub for advertising, (Add)ventures works with several fortune 500 companies while striving to inform and inspire.

Born in Nicaragua and graduated from Emerson College in Boston, Binsen loves Miami. He earned his degree in Communications and Anthropology and now puts all his energy into not only advancing the city but also showing Miami who its leaders are through the organization he founded Our City Thoughts. “Miami is evolving and I want to be a part of it every step of the way,” says Binsen. Through his experience with City Year, Binsen creates networking opportunities between Miami’s entrepreneurs and talented young people. Binsen knows how special Miami is and wants to be a part of its development. “Miami entails what America will look like. It is the story of America,” says Binsen.

Club LEADERS of the Future

March 12, 2014 Nine-Ten Restaurant

BY Monica Dubé In collaboration with Latino Leaders West Coast Partner; Gerardo Castro Orozco photos by Andrew McRory

Latino Leaders magazine celebrated their annual Club Leaders of the Future event on March 12, as 16 of San Diego’s most influential Latinos gathered for an intimate dinner reception and discussion at Nine-Ten restaurant in beautiful downtown La Jolla. After settling down to dinner, each of this year’s honorees took the opportunity to share stories about how they have managed to pave their own way to success. Despite facing initial difficulties, all of the honored guests persevered and have continued to do so while serving as an inspiration for others. National director of events, Yol-Itzma Aguirre, remarked that it is “such an honor to listen to your stories and hear the amazing things that Latinos are doing across the nation.”

Ramon Toledo President and CEO of Busca Corp.

Ramon Toledo has 20 years of experience of bringing business into Mexico as a businessman and entrepreneur. In addition to his experience as a diplomat for the economic affairs department for the Mexican Embassy in Geneva, Switzerland, Toledo has helped coordinate with Mexican presidents as they participated at the World Economic Forum, has established communication with top Swiss firms to enter the Mexican Market and has contributed and analyzed several key factors for the Mexican Switzerland Free Trade Agreement. Source: LinkedIn

Presented with the support from:

Jorge Ferraez, left, and Jose Luis Rocha at San Diego’s Club Leaders of the Future event.

From left, Claudia Estephania Baez, Carlos Welllman and Jack Maizel

Left, Jose Luis Rocha and Roman Toledo laugh during the roundtable discussion.

76 • April 2014

Amy Baca Lopez

Danny Melgoza

Spanish Modernism Painter

Deputy Chief of Staff for San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox

While trekking over 300 miles along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, Amy Baca Lopez was inspired to embrace her artistic talents and become a full-time artist. “I slowed down by walking, painting, and writing, and came back an artist,” she recalled. Previously working as a graphic designer, Lopez returned from her trip and began living life according to the famous quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.” And confidently she went, as she soon began creating amazing works of art, having been influenced by Picasso, Dali, Gaudi, and Miró. Many of her works incorporate vibrant colors and abstract expressions, conveying a unique sense of beauty in every painting. Her work has been featured in various art shows in San Diego, and she continues to establish herself in the San Diego art scene. She encourages others to “find something you love and do it every day,” and hopes that her work inspires others to make something beautiful.

David Alvarez Council Member, Eighth District, The City of San Diego

San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez was born in San Diego to immigrant parents. His father was a worker during the bracero program in the 1950s and came to California to work, and he would follow the path of many others in the pursuit of the American dream. Seeking a better life for his family, his father came to San Diego, where Alvarez was eventually born and raised.

Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Danny Melgoza was born to immigrant parents and went on to begin a career in politics after attending grad school in New York. After growing up in the Midwest without a prominent Latino community, Melgoza was drawn to San Diego for its proud cultural ties. “It’s a bit different there,” Melgoza stated, “because we don’t have a large Latino population.” He joked, adding, “We’ll take anyone over there who has a ‘z’ in their last name – Dominguez, Sanchez – it doesn’t matter if you’re Dominican or Puerto Rican; if you’re brown, you’re one of us.” After arriving in San Diego, Melgoza had the opportunity to work with San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox. He prides himself on being able to work on policy for the supervisor who is “only one of five that oversee the fifth largest county in America,” and having the “influence of 1/5 of the vote that goes for all the social policy that occurs in San Diego.” As a child who grew up on food stamps and WIC, Melgoza feels proud to be able to use his voice for underrepresented communities. After attending college, Alvarez decided to get into politics “not because I wanted to become a politician, but because I wanted to see a change,” he said. Although he came up a bit short in his recent run for mayor of San Diego, Alvarez stated that it was a “great experience and we were able to really energize a lot of new people in government. When I decided to run, it was because I wanted to get more people involved.” Alvarez feels especially proud to be a member of the Latino community because “I represent a generation of individuals whose parents sacrificed and showed us the way of hard work, dedication, respect, and honor, and those values have given us opportunities to do good things.” In ten years, Alvarez sees himself playing a pivotal role in continuing to get more people involved with politics.

Claudia Estephania Baez Journalist for Televisa

At only 25 years old, television reporter Claudia Estephania Baez is already making a name for herself on Televisa Baja California. Baez currently covers events in the San Diego area, as well as sports, entertainment, and news. Although she spent her formative years living in Mexico, Baez is thrilled to be reporting on events in San Diego. “Now that I’m here in the San Diego area,” she said, “I love it. I know we are divided by a border, but we are the same region. I’m really happy to be here.” In her career, Baez enjoys listening to the problems and concerns of the community’s daily struggles, and uses her position to be their voice. As an emerging Latina leader, Baez encourages other Latina women to obtain an education and become independent.

Jose Luis Rocha President and CEO, J.L. Rocha

Shoe designer Jose Luis Rocha was initially drawn to this side of the border in his attempts to win the heart of a woman. “Different from the rest of you,” he said, laughing, “I came to this area chasing a girl.” Although, much like the rest of the emerging leaders, Rocha quickly paved his own path to success through hard work and determination. Rocha is now president of J.L. Rocha Shoes, a company that specializes in creating exquisite leather shoes, jackets, and accessories. For Rocha, he carries his life’s values into his business practices as well, and his goal is to create a business, make it grow, and pass the company on to his children and their children. He encourages Latinos and entrepreneurs to follow their dreams.

Club LEADERS of the Future Renee Galente

Ostap Senkowski

Trial Attorney and President of San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association

Architect and Founder of DNA Disruptive Innovation Strategies

Trial attorney Renee Galente is currently the president of San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, and works to push for equality and diversity both in and out of the workplace. Growing up with learning disabilities and dyslexia, Galente didn’t think that college was a realistic option for her, but she was urged by a former boss to pursue a higher education and to believe in herself. This marked a turning point in Galente’s life, and after graduating from college, she went on to attend law school. “I never even wanted to be a lawyer but I absolutely adore it,” she said. “I take great pride in what I do and I’m surprised to be where I’m at.” After working for a large firm, Galente and her husband started their own legal practice, and she couldn’t be happier. In addition, Galente currently serves as president for San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, which makes up about 300 lawyers in San Diego who work together towards the common goal of diversity and equality, by “pushing voter registration and working to get people the services they need to make the difference in their lives.”

Ariosto Manrique Owner and Director of Testa Marketing

Ariosto Manrique was born in Tijuana, and is yet another one of this year’s emerging leaders who has called the border region home. Manrique obtained his bachelor’s degree in International Marketing from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, and went on to receive his MBA from the United

78 • April 2014

Ostap Senkowski is the founder of DNA Disruptive Innovation Strategies, and he has been working as an architectural designer for his entire professional career. Senkowski primarily works in commercial architecture, and recently started a marketing and advertising company because “when we did commercial architecture, we also proposed all of the design and graphic design for our own projects, and suddenly I started doing marketing,” Senkowski said. “I tried to understand more of the consumer part of the business. What we do is specialize in how to innovate and how to understand the consumer.” In addition, Senkowski has added a new element to his career by becoming an international speaker and by leading various workshops. Whether he’s in Mexico, Colombia, or San Diego, Senkowski is no stranger to the binational and bicultural lifestyle. Throughout his impressive career, Senkowski hopes to further “understand how people behave and consume. The idea is to start to expand frontiers.”

States International University. His is currently president of Testa Marketing, which initially started with graphic design services, but soon grew to encompass everything from branding to market research and advertising. In fact, Testa Marketing has been ranked as one of the top 50 marketing agencies and research markets in Mexico. Manrique also served as the national chairman for the Committee of Young Entrepreneurs COPARMEX and the Latin American Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs. Whether he is lecturing, mentoring, or leading discussion panels, Manrique has continued to make an impact on employment promotion and the creation of new opportunities for those living in the border region.

Adriana Eguia Entrepreneurship Consultant and Director for Endeavor Baja California

Adriana Eguia was born in Mexico City, and has spent her life living by the border since she was six years old, so she is well accustomed to the binational lifestyle. For the past ten years, Eguia has been working with entrepreneurs, and continues to act as a consultant and mentor for businesses. She got her start by working with businesses who were in the process of launching, and now she focuses her efforts on mentorship, media exposure, and financial consulting for businesses. In addition to her consultant services, Eguia also lectures at universities on entrepreneurship and business development. Whether she’s helping business succeed or sharing her skills with others, Eguia continues to be a trail blazer for San Diego’s Latina community.

Carlos Shteremberg President of Pico Digital

Originally from Mexico City, Carlos Shteremberg came to the United States about 16 years ago. He finished up his last years of college in San Diego, obtaining his degree in business and accounting from USD. Today, Shteremberg is the president of Pico Digital, a telecommunications and high-tech company based in San Diego. With some of his largest clients including ESPN, Pico Digital is a global leader in the design, manufacture, sales, and support of cutting edge technology. Shteremberg utilizes graduates from local San Diego universities to form his development team, and has also “been trying hard to build that development team in Tijuana,” he said. “I decided to expand our operations to Tijuana so we can have a cohesive development team between Mexico and the U.S.

Paola Avila Executive Director for the San Diego Chamber of Commerce’s Mexico Business Center

The youngest of three siblings, Paola Avila was born in Mexico City and was four years old when her family brought her to San Diego. Embracing San Diego as her new home, Avila went to high school and college locally. “My heart is here,” she said. After receiving a degree in economics from UCSD, Avila went into political campaigning and worked as the Deputy Chief of Staff. She later decided to open her own business for consulting and lobbying, but after ten years, she found herself back to her roots and passion – international affairs. In her position as the executive director of the San

Jack Maizel Principal, LMA Wealth Management

Jack Maizel came to San Diego approximately 30 years ago, brought along by his parents who had come to the United States to pursue a better life. Once in the United States, Maizel’s father went on to establish a wealth management business that has become a trusted advisor to many individuals, families, and corporations throughout the years. There are three areas of Maizel’s business, which include LM Capital, an institutional money manager that has been gaining recognition as being the largest Hispanic institutional money manager. The other two areas of the business are LM Advisors, which is for individuals and families, and LLJ Ventures, a private equity firm. Maizel prides himself on his father’s unparalleled business ethics, which have paved the way for his success. “My father,” he recalled, “has been instrumental in creating a good, safe, fair, and respectable atmosphere, and is always treating partners and clients how he would want, and that has allowed us to become trusted advisors.” In the years to come, Maizel hopes to continue the good name that has taken 30 years to create.

Diego Chamber of Commerce’s Mexico Business Center, Avila gets to work on increasing the relationship with Mexico. “There are few chambers of commerce that focus on binational affairs,” Avila stated. “Our board of directors and our members are very excited in increasing our relationship with Mexico. It’s an expanding and growing interest that we’re excited about.” Avila’s position allows her to develop and promote domestic and international policies that help increase trade with Mexico. Avila hopes to continue working on this same path on a national level, to help promote the area with a unified voice via government and business organizations.

Omar Jacobo Monroy Soltero Attorney and Innovation Management at Mink Global

Omar Jacobo Monroy Soltero was born in El Paso, Texas, but he spent most of his life in between Tijuana and San Diego. Growing up in the border area, Soltero has had unique insight into the changes that the region has undergone and the potential that is waiting to be released. He works as an attorney, economist, and project manager, and has recently been trying to help startups thrive in Tijuana. “Our main goal,” he said, “is to come up with more startups. My job has turned into more of non-profit, like working with Endeavor, and what we’ve done is to grow a bridge of great people with great intentions.” Soltero is channeling his efforts with the goal of attracting more work to the San Diego/Tijuana region, with the hope that eventually “we’re going to have an awesome ecosystem where we might have a physical border, but there’s no such thing. I think there’s going to be a huge intellectual flow between Tijuana and San Diego, and I know I’m going to be a key player in that.”

Carlos Wellman Architect, Real Estate Developer and Entrepreneur, Alta Design Development

Carlos Wellman has lived in San Diego for 15 years, and works as an architect, real estate developer, and entrepreneur. Wellman has developed high-end single family homes, commercial and retail businesses, and one of his biggest ventures was developing the Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas for the Cinépolis chain. Wellman cites the Latino community as being one of the main reasons why San Diego is the best place in which to live, grow up, and develop, and said, “Our roots and our history come from Mexico, and you can never leave that behind.” In addition to his real estate work, Wellman wants to continue “looking for something new and exciting. Bigger and better things will come.”

Juan Carlos Ochoa Research Director for Focus Hispanic Market Research

Juan Carlos Ochoa is currently the research director for Focus Hispanic Market Research, which provides strategic marketing planning for the everincreasing Hispanic market in America. With a growing purchasing power, the Hispanic market has been in the spotlight recently, and Ochoa has demonstrated just how valuable Latinos are in today’s world of business. “We started the business in Mexicali,” Ochoa said. “We started very young, very hungry, and very poor,” he added with a laugh. Like many others, Ochoa faced some hardships in the beginning, but his hard work has clearly paid off. In addition to his work with Focus Hispanic Market Research, Ochoa has also been exploring his interests in wine making, and hopes to continue honing his talents in wine production in the Ensenada area.

What Jorge Ferraez




OM BRACAMONTES is CEO of Total Brand Awareness Napa, a boutique wine brand consulting firm, and his favorite mission is working to help Latino wine brands from California break into the markets. Bracamontes works with distributors and retailers to open doors for the brands he manages. He’s passionate that Latinoowned wineries should be considered a category of its own. “These people (Latinoowned wineries) are doing excellent wines, with average qualities way above of their competitors. Once the consumer becomes aware of this, these brands will take off.” Some of the brands he works for, such as Maldonado or Justicia wines, are authentic success stories: both with dedicated winemakers and founders who know every secret about terroir and growing the highest-quality fruit that can make superior wine. No one has the access to the great fruit that everybody will fight for, like these Latino winemakers; and that’s part of the secret of why their wines are better in general. I had this conversation with Bracamontes over an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon from Baja, Mexico: Casa Baloyan Don Sirak Reserve 2009; that impressed both of us with its low salinity, deep concentration, fruitiness and delicate balance; “this wine exceeds by far my expectations from a wine from Baja California,” Bracamontes told me as we kept sipping it. Perhaps, Bracamontes will soon want to start his own effort of working with Mexican Baja winegrowers who are also starting to see their own success.

Tom Bracamontes CEO of Total Brand Awareness Napa 80 • April 2014

Chateau Fombrauge 2003 (found it at one of my favorite stores) Region: Bordeaux, St. Emilion Varietal: Bordeaux Blend Price: $53 Aromas: Dark fruit, dark chocolate, blackberries Flavors: Fig, mocha, espresso bean Impression: Silky, aromatic Structure: delicate round Drink with: Complex dishes Why I loved this wine? Elegant and delicious My rating: 97 pts.

Numanthia “N” 2009 (sent from the winery to be tasted and reviewed) Region: Toro, Spain Varietal: Tinta de Toro Price: $ 40 (aprox.) Aromas: Lactic, Fruity Flavors: Toasted Espresso bean,blackberries, tea Impression: Concentrated, firm Structure: Powerful, tanic Drink with: Roasted beef, duck in dark sauces Why I loved this wine? Some minty notes My rating: 95 pts.

Valentin Bianchi “Enzo Bianchi” San Rafael 2007 (discovered in a Miami FL wine shop) Region: San Rafael, Argentina Varietal: Bordeaux Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot Price: $47 Aromas: Spicy, chocolate and dark fruit Flavors: Rosemary, red currant, plum Impression: Perfumed and succulent Structure: Massive yet elegant wine Drink with: Argentinian beef Why I loved this wine? Delicious, aromatic and big My rating: 94 pts.

North North offere Natio

LatiNa with


Story by Denise

Marie Photos for Latino Leaders by Raul Ospina


With channeled ambition, grit, boundless energy and relentless determination, Darling Lie-Nielsen has a life-size goal – to achieve all that is possible and to always dream big. The then 21-year-old Cum Laude graduate of the University of Florida accepted a job with Northwestern Mutual and made it her goal to become a formidable success story of a Latina in the financial services industry.

oon she discovered her career at the company had much more meaning than accolades and recognition. She was touching lives in a meaningful way by working hand-in-hand with her clients to build financial security for themselves and their families, one conversation at a time. As a first-year financial representative, Lie-Nielsen faced what any new representative faces. “You work long hours and you endure rejection, but you pick yourself up and become known for something much greater than the financial services and products you offer,” said Lie-Nielsen. “Now integrity, focus and trust become your assets. And then you begin to build a practice and develop relationships that continue over a lifetime.” Because she was not independently wealthy, her address book was empty of client possibilities, and she had to start

from scratch. Now, more than 10 years in, her address book could rival some of the best in the financial services industry. One career challenge came on a memorable day during her first year with the company while striving to meet the required four daily appointments, a paradigm used in the industry to build strong financial representatives and drive production. As her day was winding down, Lie-Nielsen still had one consultation to complete in downtown Miami. The mass transit dropped her off four blocks from the law firm, and as she started to walk toward the building, the skies opened and a fierce downpour ensued. Arriving drenched from head-to-toe, Lie-Nielsen approached the senior partner to go over her pitch. Though he did not buy a life insurance policy from Lie-Nielsen on that day, she was not deterred. Before leaving, she showed him a list with the names of his colleagues that she was planning to contact and asked him for a recommendation, a tech-

nique for getting referrals that she still uses 10 years later. He reviewed the list, circled 30 associates and said, “‘Tell them that I said they need to meet with you. I wish I had done much more financial planning in my early years.’” Much of her progress can be attributed to the work ethic that was instilled in her formidable years by her parents who wanted their children to lead successful lives. Lie-Nielsen’s core values are deeply rooted in family values. Born in Nicaragua, her parents brought Lie-Nielsen, at the age of five, and her siblings to the United States to provide their children with an opportunity to become all that they could be. “They taught us to dream, to be kind to one another and others,” Lie-Nielsen said. “To be gracious, hardworking and thankful. These are meaningful character traits that mold a person for life.” Those lessons have paid dividends for Lie-Nielsen. She’s no longer a rookie waiting to get in the game, but rather, a veteran helping other new financial representatives by sharing her experiences as the first Latina under 40 to achieve Forum at Northwestern Mutual, a distinction reserved for top producers. “My hard work has paid off, not just for me, but for my clients,” Lie-Nielsen said. “I have an incredible business practice that allows me to be a loving wife, mother and daughter and still have time for my friends.” Lie-Nielsen continues to set each year’s goal higher than the previous, but her reason for working hard evolved. Three years into the business, she received a call that one of her clients had passed away and the widow would need help filing their claim. Devastating news for anyone on any day, but on this day, it gave new meaning to Lie-Nielsen’s practice. “My clients depend on me. At that moment, it stopped be-

“My hard work has paid off, not just for me, but for my clients,” Lie-Nielsen said. “I have an incredible business practice that allows me to be a loving wife, mother and daughter and still have time for my friends.”

A plan that keeps you on solid financial footing and in pursuit of your most ambitious goals. Create a stronger foundation to accomplish your goals with Northwestern Mutual, a company that helps you succeed with disciplined and balanced strategy.

“I tell young women who want a career in the financial services industry that tenacity is key. You have to be ‘grace under pressure,’” says Lie-Nielsen.

ing about the numbers, awards and recognition. It is and always will be about the bigger picture and the relationships we build with our clients for a greater purpose. That purpose and plan always has financial security and wellness at its core.” Now in her early thirties, Lie-Nielsen still works at a breakneck pace, but has learned to manage work and family life. “I tell young women who want a career in the financial services industry that tenacity is key. You have to be ‘grace under pressure,’” says Lie-Nielsen. Lie-Nielsen proudly strives to represent her culture as a strong Latina. Part of the reason she has been so successful is that she never adhered to the social limits placed on her as a Latina, she said. The belief that Latinas cannot lead prominent, suc-

cessful lives is one that Lie-Nielsen said cannot be promoted anymore, and each of those stigmas must be challenged. “Times are changing and I am thrilled to help carry our torch,” said Lie-Nielsen. “Success in my career was against all odds. The stigma needs to be dispelled because we Latina women are here today, and we’re not going anywhere.” Lie-Nielsen hopes to instill in her children the legacy that they have a voice and can be financially independent. One day, I hope to have someone tell my daughter or my son, “Because of your mother I am able to retire.” Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) (life, and disability insurance, annuities) and its subsidiaries.

Achieve financial security with a plan built on principles. Create your financial plan with a Northwestern Mutual Financial Advisor. Together, we’ll design a disciplined and balanced approach to protecting, accumulating and managing your wealth, so you can take advantage of life’s opportunities. Who’s helping you build your financial future?

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) and its subsidiaries. Securities offered through Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, subsidiary of NM, member FINRA and SIPC. Wealth management programs offered through Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company®, Milwaukee, WI, subsidiary of NM, limited purpose federal savings bank. NCAA is a trademark of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. (0213)

Profile for Latino Leaders

Latino Leaders Magazine | April 2014  

Latino Leaders Magazine | April 2014