To mark the magazine's 25th year, we found three families who faced the challenges of accessing capital, buying a home, building a business, and educating their children – families that form the bedrock of the Hispanic middle class. Their stories share common themes – struggle, sacrifice, sheer stubbornness – that may seem familiar to everyone because, after all, it is the story of America.
A TEXAS DYNASTY
Buddy Puente still remembers the excitement he felt when his father showed him the 1985 edition of the Hispanic Business 500. It was the first year their company, Southwest Office Systems, made the list. "I immediately looked to see who else in Fort Worth was on the list," says Buddy, "then in Texas, and then other dealerships like ours. I was very proud."
Buddy Puente at Southwest Office Systems' headquarters in 1989.
Practically speaking, he says, the listing has helped persuade prospective clients to sign on the dotted line.
"When they saw our ranking, it gave us credibility."
And even now the magazine continues to be a source of inspiration. "I believe our business is fairly successful, but reading some of your articles makes me think we can push ourselves further," says Buddy.
Buddy's father, Victor, knows a lot about pushing – he had to push and fight his way up from modest beginnings. Born in Breckenridge, Texas, in 1926, Victor was raised in a house with no electricity and no indoor toilet facilities – the best he could hope for was simple survival, hourly work as a farmhand or maybe as an oilfield laborer. But no one ever told him that. His parents, immigrants from Mexico, showered him with love and attention and made him believe he could do anything.
As it turns out, they were right. Today, at 77, Victor looks back with satisfaction at a life spent building a $32 million, Fort Worth-based group of companies that continues to flourish under the leadership of his three children.
When Victor dropped out of high school after ninth grade, few would have predicted that he would one day be a multimillionaire. His former football coach and a Sunday school teacher convinced him that he needed some job skills, and encouraged him to enroll in a vocational school. "At that school, I could have taken shoemaking, watch repair, or typewriter repair," he says. He had previously taken a typing class and had developed a knack for troubleshooting other students' machines. So typewriter repair seemed a logical choice.
Eventually, Victor got a job as a typewriter repairman for Underwood. Independent to a fault, he refused to follow the coat-and-tie dress code. On most days, he says, he wore "jeans and moccasins," and often stumbled into work with at least one black eye – he liked to box in his spare time. Management grew weary of his defiant ways after a while, and they fired him.
Several months later, Olivetti bought out Underwood, and Victor decided to re-apply. He got the job and, this time, he stuck around quite a while longer: 21 years. He credits the stabilizing influence of his wife, Virginia. "She's been a big part of my success," Victor says.
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