Rebekka Ramirez is a first time homebuyer in Whittier. She has good fortune conspiring for her on multiple fronts. The first was that her parents moved in with her father’s parents and offered to sell her the home where she was raised. The second was her husband partnered with her financially to facilitate the purchase of the home. The third, she said, was her faith. Adding them all up, she has been able to continue a tradition of homeownership that began with her Mexican grandmother from Nuevo León and continued with her father. She is also one of those rare examples in the Latina/o community that is benefitting from and continuing her family’s generational wealth via real estate. She is a third generation home owner.
As I was driving through one day on the way to buy chicharrón carnudo at the Sahuayo Market on Pomona street in Santa Ana, California, I saw a street sign for a community crop exchange. I stopped to buy some calabazas and began talking with one of the volunteers, Tessie Rios. I asked her if she lived in the area and she told me that she was on the board of the neighborhood association.
I felt like I had found a needle in the Mexican haystack to uncover a Puerto Rican homeowner in Floral Park. One of the nicest areas of Santa Ana, called Floral Park, is mostly white. Still, the former mayor of Santa Ana, Miguel Pulido, lives there, and so does Congressman Lou Correa.
Around 76% of the Santa Ana population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census. Many of them hail from Sahuayo, Michoacán, México, and the two cities have a sister city agreement.
We sat in a nearby park and Rios told me her life story. Homeownership wasn’t an ambition to generate wealth, rather it was a story of survival and a search for stability caused by the diaspora. Rios lived an intense and traumatic childhood being shuffled in and out of Puerto Rico from birth until the age of 40. That’s when she made the purchase of her forever home and finally pivoted from insecurity to security.
I always knew that part of my American dream included home ownership as being the daughter of an architect, I grew up going to his “obras” and seeing the foundation with rubble grow and convert into magnificent structures. My dad always said one must invest in “Books and Bricks,”meaning, focus on education and invest in homeownership to succeed. He was right. Once in America, I worked hard being an immigrant who did not know anyone and did not speak English well. I went to school, completed two postgraduate degrees and eventually my MBA. I purchased my first condo at age 30 with the guidance of my Latina friends and a wonderful realtor who taught me what I know now. That was my first step of many that followed to get me where I am today.
I have deeply always had a need for a place. I think that ties back directly to being a Cuban American and not being able to visit Cuba. I have the understanding that my father and his family were displaced and we moved around a lot for his career, so it took 18 tries before we found home. For me, that was not just a connection to home ownership and prosperity but really a need to have a place and to set down roots. We needed to have roots over having prosperity. Ultimately, when we did put down roots and my father had arrived at a successful career and it reflected our values and our aesthetic, it did become a sign of prosperity.
Farah Sosa identifies as a photographer with an emphasis on multicultural musical landscapes. She was born in Guatemala City and has been living in Los Angeles since 2006. She currently rents n Highland Park, California, and would like to own a home one day.
Jazmin Garcia identifies as a Mexican American saleswoman selling technology for nonprofits to grow their objectives. She was born and raised on the border between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Baja California. She currently lives in Chicago. Sergio C. Muñoz interviewed Garcia for his series on Latino wealth and prosperity.
In 2022, only 8% of homebuyers in the U.S. were Latino barely up from 6% in 2003, according to the National Association of Realtors. That means in 20 years there has been little progress.
In 2019, in California the Latino homeownership rate was 44.1%, still 19.2 points below that of white households, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Latinos certainly have buying power. We are 19% of the population and have more than $2 trillion in buying power, according to Claritas.
Analia Mendez, a Mexican American executive, speaks about the idea of home in this video series called “On Prossperity.” Her Mexican parents worked on farmland in her childhood in Modesto and today she lives on farmland in her present home in San Diego.