As the first Hispanic president of the Lubbock Realtors Association, Debora Perez Ruiz believes that diversity is the key to the future of the association and the Lubbock real estate business.
With her instillation as president of the LAR in January, Ruiz solidified the idea that hard work and dedication are more important than the differences found among the association's members.
Ruiz began her career in real estate in 1982, when, according to her, there were only three Hispanic Realtors in Lubbock.
"I remember ordering name riders with only my first name because I knew putting my last name on them would hurt my chances of getting calls. As a young Hispanic woman starting in this business, I met a lot of challenges," she said. "There was even a Hispanic builder who told me he didn't want me to represent him because he knew my Hispanic heritage would hurt his business."
Now, 30 years later, Ruiz has come full circle.
"I never dreamed when I got started that it would even be possible for me to be installed as president of this organization," said Ruiz.
Even as a child, Ruiz was given the idea that to be different was not a good thing.
"My parents both immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. Until the age of 6, I only spoke Spanish. Two weeks before I began first grade, my parents told me I had to learn English, and was only to speak English from that point on."
Ruiz recalls being slapped on the hand in school early on for reverting to speaking Spanish.
"I was almost shamed into trying to be like everyone else," said Ruiz.
Early in her career, Ruiz said she "got the feeling that I had to work harder to prove myself. Not only was I Hispanic, I was a young, single mother."
Ruiz said the extra pressure challenged her to be knowledge-based, taking more classes and designations to compete in a business that was dominated by white males.
Years later, Ruiz adopted a different attitude.
After meeting other people struggling with being different, Ruiz began to understand that skin color wasn't the only thing dividing people."
"The problem was that we were different from the 'norm.' Skin color, age, sex, religion, culture -- all played a part in the division. I began to see that maybe I just needed to embrace my Mexican heritage and work instead to just be myself."
As the demographics of Lubbock became more diverse, with the Hispanic population increasing, the Mexican heritage that had once been a hindrance became an attribute. "To be able to communicate with Spanish-speaking homebuyers has been a big advantage over the past several years. In the beginning I didn't want to market myself as a Spanish speaker, but now there is a big need."
Lubbock Realtors Association Executive Cade Fowler believes Ruiz's position as president "shows how far the association has come, and the progression of membership. She represents the diversity of the association that hasn't been there before in more ways than one. She breaks so many of the boundaries ...Hispanic, female, independent broker, single mom ...it has been a really neat experience to see the old stereotypes dissolve and someone like Debora step up and take the lead."
Diversity, Ruiz believes, is the art of thinking independently together, and the future of the realty business in Lubbock.
"As the world and our area grow more diverse, so must the association," she said.
According to State Demographer of Texas Lloyd Potter, the Hispanic and Asian populations of Texas have doubled since the 1980s.
"All of us need to embrace our many differences, and have a spirit of acceptance of what is different about us and doesn't fit the "norm" as we knew it," Ruiz said.
Ruiz believes her position means she carries a responsibility to mentor the younger generation, paving the way for someone to take her place eventually. "Only by encouraging and supporting each other to be involved will this association grow and thrive through all the economic, legal and technical challenges that the real estate industry will face in the future.
"It has been a great year, and I appreciate the opportunity I have to lead by the example that diversity is the one true thing we all have in common."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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