Kristy Ortiz was born and raised in Texas, east of Dallas and south of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations in a town called Scurry. Her family on her father’s side were Mexican and on her mother’s side, they were white and Indigenous. After her parents divorced, Kristy’s mother moved to California and this gave her a chance to escape from her small town to spread her wings and fly. Her ancestral family was in Los Angeles, so close they are buried 10 miles from where Kristy lives now. She came to California in her senior year of high school in her cowboy boots fresh off the farm and soon after graduation began working in the mortgage industry. She was a homeowner for many years but received a buyout from her spouse and now she currently rents a single family residence in Garden Grove. Regardless of her length of time in California, Texas still plays a crucial role in her psyche. In Kristy’s case, it may be the cause of any long standing instability or insecurity that she may experience in terms of homeownership. The permanence of establishing her forever home outside of Texas seems to be a conundrum that she is constantly negotiating. She thinks that once her daughter, 24, a firefighter in training, and her son, 15, a student, are settled, she will be able to make decisions for herself and her future.
Sergio: Please describe your childhood home?
It was the country, dirt roads, tire swing out front, a simple one story farm-style, three bedrooms, a garden to the right, shed in the back, it was the country. We burned our trash. I lived there with my step-dad, my mom, my brother and our Doberman. My mom was white and my father was Hispanic. I grew up in Scurry, Texas, a small town with a lot of stray animals. This is where my memories of childhood are and that house is where I made a lot of decisions about my future. We weren’t economically at the bottom and we weren’t in the middle class but we didn’t go without. Both of my parents were born in Texas and my father’s mother was born in Mexico. My great grandmother only spoke to us in Spanish. She and my grandmother taught us how to make tortillas and tamales and the males would be outside playing the guitar and the accordion. We hung out as a family together every Sunday so I got to experience my father’s family in Texas and that was a formative experience for me.
Sergio: When did you begin to fantasize about prosperity and did you tie your vision to an image of a home?
When I was young, MTV Cribs was new and a thing and I remember I used to think to myself, ‘I want a walk-in closet like that, or I want a kitchen like that, but those are all physical things and when I was growing up, prosperity was more about learning and things that I can grow from and can’t be taken away. It was important for me to get my degree. My father didn’t have that, my mother didn’t have that, my sister didn’t have that, and I wanted to get mine and I knew that it could never be taken away.
Sergio: Did you think that if you got educated enough, you might one day be able to afford an MTV-Style Crib?
If you have an education, you are around people who have different mentalities so yes, I tied it together as something that would put me around a certain type of person, educated people, but none of that was my primary goal. My primary goal was to make my father and mother proud of me. It was my goal but it also felt like it was for “us” as a family.
Sergio: Generational validation seems to be a constant theme among the women that I have been featuring in this series. Do you know why you were in search of that validation?
My father had a high school education and he worked in manual labor and he worked so hard his entire labor. Trucking, stocked magazines, delivery, warehouses, he kept shelves stocked. My mother was an admin assistant. I wanted them to see that the things that they instilled in me made me a better person.
Sergio: What does your home look like present-day?
A cute four bedroom house with a bay window in the front. White with red brick. Two columns by the front door. I have a huge Texas star on the front of the house. I am currently renting. I don’t have any options to buy the same home but I got really lucky in being able to rent it. I live here with my son, 15, and my daughter, 24, and our Chihuahua mix rescue.
Sergio: Are you still really proud of your childhood in Texas?
Yes! I have to represent Texas.
Sergio: Do your children think they are Texan?
My son wishes he were Texan. My daughter channels the Latino side more.
Sergio: Do your children understand themselves as Latino?
My daughter does but my son forgets sometimes. He remembers when we were back in Texas with my father’s family.
Sergio: Is there a connection between your former fantasy and your current reality?
I am in a better position here and now in California than I was when I was a child in Texas. We don’t have a want for anything that we can’t have or can’t get. I know that I have taught my children that you can have anything you want as long as you work hard enough. That has been the story of my life. We have a great place, nice furniture, we aren’t struggling, we enjoy each other’s company. We have a piano, guitars, we goof around and enjoy spending time with each other. That for me, you can’t put a price on that.
Sergio: What do you do for work?
My dream job was to be a forensic accountant but that takes a master’s degree. I have been in the mortgage industry since 1997. I am an underwriter in a multi-million dollar government grant management program. I have my MLS license. I have my loan officer licensing. I am a notary public. I do mortgage signings on the side. And I manage a team of processors and underwriters for the government program. I love the paperwork side of it. I love analyzing the documents. I do not care for the sales side. I want to read and analyze documents.
Sergio: Have you ever owned a home?
Yes. I had a beautiful home when I was married. When I went through my divorce, I chose to sell 50% of my equity and to walk away. I needed help at the time. I had stayed home for 10 years when I was raising my children. This is when I got my college degree. I graduated with honors and it was really hard but I was proud of myself for not quitting.
Sergio: What is stopping you from being a homeowner again?
I don’t know where my feet are going to land after my children are gone from my house. It’s hard to buy a home in Texas when I don’t live in Texas. I don’t want to make a bad investment. I want to understand the neighborhood where I am buying my next home.
Sergio: What do your tattoos represent?
My hometown in Dallas, Texas was very close to the Choctaw Nation so we had a connection to the Choctaw but when I did my ancestry documentation, we discovered that we were actually connected to the Chickasaw Nation through the Dawes Rolls. The woman on my arm is Chickasaw. I also love Día de Muertos and so I got a tattoo to represent the whole idea of it. My grandmother used palo santo and sage in her home and she believed in spirits and energy and nature. I brought that forward into my life and home as an inheritance.