5 Notable Hispanics in Real Estate

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from September 15 to October 15 every year. This article provides an opportunity to highlight five notable Hispanics in Real Estate, a Mortgage Lender, Two Architects, One of the Most Iconic Real Estate Developers in the Country, and a Farmer in California.

Beginning in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month was observed initially as “Hispanic Heritage Week” under President Lyndon Johnson, but it was later extended to a month during President Ronald Reagan’s term in 1988. National Hispanic Heritage Month was first proclaimed by President George H.W. Bush on September 14, 1989, in Presidential Proclamation 6021. Since 1989, all Presidents have given a Presidential Proclamation to mark Hispanic Heritage Month. The term Hispanic is a census-driven term of art used to describe a group of citizens whose roots are in the Spanish-speaking Latin American World. The rationale behind a mid-month celebratory month was in recognition of the September 15th independence anniversaries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Mexico follows this Independence Day on September 16th and Chile on the 18th.

Robert Nuñez and Raúl Arriaga are known for their The American Dream Home Advantage Program

Robert Nuñez and Raúl Arriaga Photo credit: Matt Redden with Vitae Photography

Robert Nuñez was born in California and grew up in Rio Bravo in Tamaulipas, Mexico until his family moved to South Texas. He moved to San Antonio to pursue banking while attending college. An opportunity arose at USAA, where his career journey began. He relocated to Dallas, graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas, and now has nearly two decades of experience in the financing industry. Today, Robert is a residential mortgage loan originator and Guild Mortgage branch manager recognized for his effectiveness and dedication to securing highly competitive home mortgages for residential clients and investors. 

Raúl Arriaga was also born in California, grew up in Mexico, and is the eighth child of nine siblings. Raúl originally planned to major in film and television. However, his sister (who was at the time in real estate) convinced him to pursue the profession. He attended Dallas College to pursue his Texas real estate license and has never looked back. Raúl loves to help people with fulfilling their dream of home ownership. Today, Raúl is a successful realtor in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, consistently ranked in the top 1%. With an international and local client base, Raúl is committed to helping people—from diplomats to immigrants— achieve the American dream of property ownership. 

Robert Nuñez bought his first home at 22 years of age. He was tired of renting, so decided it was time to buy a starter home for $90,000. When he first purchased a house while being a university student and working full-time, he realized that he was not well-informed about the process. The process was confusing, and no one educated him about it. After seeing gaps, he wanted to change the home buying experience for others. 

The American Dream Home Advantage Program: Raúl and Robert spearhead the program aimed at providing companies a benefit for their employees. The American Dream Home Advantage Program is designed for buyers and sellers, so whatever the need of the employee, the program is there to support them and achieve the best outcome possible. 

Raúl and Robert provide guidance and advice to give home buyers and sellers confidence, ensuring they make good decisions based on their unique circumstances. Now more than ever, home buyers need guidance to navigate rising interest rates and appreciated markets.

“Latinos are a growing force in the housing market. Latino homeownership is expanding at a record pace, fueled by younger buyers,” says Raúl Arriaga. “The American Dream Home Advantage Program can give them expert guidance, resources, and direction to achieve success in real estate.” 

The mission of the American Dream Home Advantage Program is to give employees expert resources and educate them on how to create wealth by investing and/or how to buy a home. In return, employees boost performance and increase loyalty to their employer.  

How The American Dream Home Advantage Helps Employees: The American Dream Home Advantage Program is a one-stop shop for all the employees’ needs, tailored to their life. The program can also refer employees to other services such as tax, financial and legal advice connecting them to CPAs, financial advisors, and attorneys. 

“A company’s success is often determined by the satisfaction and success of its employees.  In this competitive market, the American Dream Home Advantage Program is another tool employers can use to attract and retain quality employees,” said Robert Nuñez. “This program provides valuable resources to employees, demonstrating the company cares about their personal success.” 

Raul and Robert are helping employees achieve their American dream of owning a home while building wealth; increasing the companies’ employee retention, gaining loyalty, and improving productivity. 

Jorge M. Pérez, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Related Group

Jorge M. Perez, Courtesy of Latino Leaders Magazine

Related Group

Perez, a real estate developer and urban planner of The Related Group, proves that the ability to achieve maximum entrepreneurial growth is not as a far-fetched dream as it may seem. Perez, founder, chairman, and CEO of the Related Group began his company in the affordable housing industry, serving the needs of the elderly and those qualified for low-income housing.

 “We started in public housing development in Florida: Little Havana, Wynwood 40 years ago for the elderly, poor, Latinos,” he said. “It’s what I liked, doing something to benefit society.”

Like many other entrepreneurial endeavors, Perez, who was born in Argentina to Cuban parents, endured a few setbacks and hardships along the story of his successful company. “Sometimes we’re not strong enough and things can go wrong,” he said. “Leverage is a double-edged sword. It lets you produce so much with a small investment but when things go bad you have to pay.”

In the late 70s and early 80s, he began development projects in urban areas of Miami such as Little Havana where a number of Cuban exiles settled following the Mariel Boatlift in which a mass exodus from the Caribbean island led Cuban nationals to the United States. The government-backed the financing of his projects through government-issued loans. Partnered with Stephen Ross, a New York developer and cofounder of the Related Group of Florida, one of their most significant projects at the time was remodeling a 21-unit apartment complex in Little Havana. In the years that followed, larger and more upscale projects took off, including condos and luxury living facilities such as the Murano at Portofino, The Manor at Flagler, New River Yacht Club, and The Luxury Skyrise Courtyards in CityPlace in West Palm Beach.

By the year 2000, Perez had almost entirely left the urban housing industry, allowing him to focus on luxury residencies until 2008 when the housing and economic crisis hit the nation. Perez was driven back into the affordable housing industry. Billions of dollars worth of properties were purchased at the time because of the housing crisis, which set the country into panic mode following a number of homeowners who had purchased properties without appropriate credit and affordability, causing a national financial meltdown. Banks and owners wanted to sell properties quickly, expecting a more mediocre market and attempting to get rid of their properties for fast cash.

The Related Group has generated about four billion in building production, escalating the firm into one of the largest real estate companies in the country, and signature developer of upscale living in Florida with numerous projects, such as the Auberge Residences in Miami’s Art District. More than half of the condominium buyers in Miami are foreigners who purchase luxury properties in the United States. The company has many properties that begin at more than one million dollars to buy and has sprouted overseas with upscale condos and hotels in Playa del Carmen, Acapulco, and other Mexican getaway destinations. The Related Group has already begun other projects in other parts of the world.

Perez stated in the Latino Leader Magazine;

“We have 70 projects surrounding the Americas and three or four in India. There are currently up to a dozen condos under construction in South Beach, particularly in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. He also said there is an international division, which oversees projects in the Bahamas, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. All luxury products”

The Related Group boasts of having other divisions such as affordable housing-low income, workforce housing for the middle class, and high-end apartments being produced in Atlanta, St. Petersburg, Orlando, and other cities. Each division has a president, construction team, management, and other roles.

Perez as he noted takes pride in the strides The Related Group has taken over the years.

Brickell Heights is the latest project in Miami. The double tower condos will include shopping areas and a gym and 690 units. He credits part of the success of the inception of these projects to his marketing efforts, which allows them to expand creativity through art and architecture

“We’re best in class”

 “One of my greatest points of pride is that I’ve created the DNA of the company” 

“Our brand and form of marketing allow us to enter even those markets overseas” 

He used a project in Cancun as an example, which sold 30 percent higher than it would have sold in the average market. The design and vision of the projects are contributed by members of his staff: two full-time curators and a construction department, which checks all of the projects and reports back to the project managers. Perez calls his team the renaissance men because the project managers know various tasks and are knowledgeable, able to train assistant managers and develop them into strong project managers. Long gone are the days when Perez racked up loans for projects, which are financed through equity partners, minimizing the company’s debt. In the past, Perez has partnered with President Trump for projects in Florida.

This was the situation Perez was challenged with after receiving two billion dollars in loans and three billion in sales that practically dissolved. With 80 banks to deal with, Perez was involved with too many loans. 

“Even though they allow you to grow faster it can become a huge problem. You can’t have all your eggs in one basket, and yet when things go too well people tell you-you’re a genius and you begin believing that.”

Alongside his business endeavors, Perez is also committed to a number of philanthropic efforts. He said he wants the community to grow in sustainability and balance. He takes pleasure in community efforts because it makes him feel like a better human. Along with his family and Puerto Rican singer and close friend Marc Anthony, monies are awarded for pushing efforts for international arts, especially promoting Latin American art. One such example is promoting the art of Cuban artists and offering them scholarships so that they can come to the United States and have opportunities to improve their art and showcase their work in this country. For Perez, it’s also an opportunity for better communication between the United States and Latin America, with Miami as the central hub to connect both.

In conclusion, Mr. Jorge Perez states,

“Many of our immigrants lack the education and have to build from the bottom up and it costs them” “Many Cubans who arrived in the United States were successful because they had an education so they had a leg up, some were upper class. But if you come from a ranch, and can’t write, it’s hard to be successful, especially if you’re different or illegal. And so those are the ones who need to be helped and told, ‘Yes you can!’”

Mónica Ponce de León believes that everyone deserves good architecture.

Monica Ponce de Leon, Helios House, Los Angeles

Democratizer of Design – Articulate with Jim Cotter

She’s pioneered the use of technology to make high-end design more accessible and climate friendly.

Helios House by MPdL Studio, a design firm founded by Venezuelan-born architect Monica Ponce de Leon, boasts the title of the first LEED-certified gas station in the country. Sitting at the intersection of two major North/South and East/West crossroads in Los Angeles, the location was previously the site of a gas station. One of the project’s goals was to upgrade the original station in an environmentally friendly manner by upcycling and recycling whenever possible. Solar panels covering the canopy’s roof, energy-efficient lights and sensors placed throughout, and prefabricated stainless steel panels that conserve labor costs and reduce material waste are just a few of the structure’s sustainable features. 

Helios House won a design award from AIA Los Angeles and a Grand Clio Award for Design.

In an Architectural Record interview, Monica Ponce de Leon responds.

“Architecture has engaged with narrow problems and failed to engage with the world at large. We should test our boundaries—how do we address other issues besides architecture, how do we engage with society?”

Gustavo Rodriguez, AIA, a partner at New York’s FX Collaborative creates design solutions that are integrated with their environments.

Gustavo Rodriguez, AIA, FXCollaborative FXCollaborative Architects on 06/19/2022

With years of experience designing projects of varying scales and typologies both in the United States and abroad, Gustavo is passionate about working collaboratively to craft innovative buildings that enrich their context. He views design as a force that enables us to reshape our relationship with the environment, that is fueled by advances in materials and technology and the programmatic richness of a project, and by a sensitivity to a place that makes every building unique. Born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Gustavo grew up tinkering with Lego kits and from that moment knew he would become an architect. Growing up in the Caribbean fostered a fluid relationship between buildings and nature, something that still informs his approach to creating design solutions that are integrated with their environments. He has led design on many of our notable commercial and residential projects, including 1 Willoughby Square, The Ashland and The Forge.

The Forge spearheaded by Gustavo Rodriguez, AIA, a partner at New York’s FX Collaborative, faces toward the East River and Manhattan. The building’s living spaces range from studios to one- and two-bedroom units and include a landscaped courtyard, sculpture garden, lap pool, movie screening area, and an al fresco dining space. The Forge won a 2018 Brooklyn-Queens Award of Excellence for multi-family design.

Joe Del Bosque, 72, now farms 2,000 acres — including that half-mile he first bought.

Joe Del Bosque on his farm in Firebaugh, CA Image courtesy of John Brecher for NBC News 2022
These California Latino farmers have built success. 

It’s been a great journey for me, up until now, says Joe Del Bosque about the successful 2,000-acre family farm he’s built. The future for him and others looks increasingly uncertain.

When Joe Del Bosque bought one of his first few fields 25 years ago, his wife, Maria, nicknamed it “the field of the house.” She hoped the agriculturally rich half-mile stretch of land would make them enough money to buy their first home. The land allowed them to do that — and more.

When Del Bosque was growing up in the area, his life revolved around farm work, picking melons alongside field workers his father managed. When he created his own family-run farm in 1985, he fulfilled his American Dream, he said. Today, several family members depend on the farm to make their living.

He and Maria, also a farmworker, have six daughters and nine grandchildren. Del Bosque hopes to introduce a few of his grandkids to farming, but he’s losing hope about its viability.

Del Bosque, 72, now farms 2,000 acres — including the first half-mile he bought. His vast melon fields are among the country’s most productive, and his almonds are sold around the world.

About a third of Del Bosque’s farm grows almonds, and another third is dedicated to growing organic melons, including cantaloupes, honeydews, mix melons and watermelons. He once grew asparagus, sweet corn and tomatoes, but he doesn’t anymore, citing the limited availability of water.

He expects to have to decrease the number of melon crops even though this is 30 percent to 35 percent of his produce, putting a third of the experienced melon pickers out of work.

The majority of Del Bosque’s crops are distributed across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East — 70 percent of his almonds are exported, while his organic melons are in heavy demand in Florida, New York and Texas.

Del Bosque has felt that his long-term family farming enterprise is under threat.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had so much pressure in all my career as a farmer,” he said, his eyes expressing worry under the brim of his tan cowboy hat. “This isn’t really the way I want my career to end. I want to be able to pass on a thriving, growing farm for our children and grandchildren. It’s looking tougher and tougher and a little more grim every year.”

The field, which Del Bosque has been getting ready for planting since last year, could be uncultivated if his farm doesn’t get enough water this year. That would put 80 to 100 skilled people out of work, a painful reality for longtime farmers in the area like Del Bosque, who have spent the majority of their careers cultivating crops in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Here in the San Joaquin Valley and the Central and South Coast regions, farming has employed more than 400,000 people each year in the last decade alone, most of them Latinos. For many, it has been several generations’ livelihoods, and it’s a significant part of the state’s annual average employment.

California produces two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and more than a third of its vegetables — among the top valued commodities in 2020 were almonds and grapes.

But fueled by climate change, southwestern North America is experiencing its driest 22-year period — beginning in 2000 — in at least 1,200 years. It’s expected to persist through 2022 and after, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Researchers at the University of California, Merced, estimated that the drought last year cost California’s agriculture industry $1.1 billion, nearly 8,750 full-time and part-time jobs and 385,000 acres of idled land in the Central Valley alone, according to the study.

His farm is struggling to cope with a meager water supply as lower yields in crop production and increased worker wages have created tense economic cutbacks. As his farm faces another dry year, he is striving to remain afloat.

On the drive toward Del Bosque’s ranch, signs planted along the highway read “food grows where the water goes,” “help solve the water crisis” and “Newsom stop wasting our dam water,” referring to Gov. Gavin Newsom, among other messages.

Del Bosque’s ranch gets its water from the San Luis Reservoir, which is managed by the Central Valley Project Water Association, an irrigation project managed by the federal government that allocates shared water to farms in the area and the environment through canals, pump plants and aqueducts.

In February 2022, the federal government announced that farmers will start the year with zero percent water allocation as California enters a third consecutive year of severe drought. Del Bosque, who has served on many agricultural boards, including the California Water Commission, said,

“That’s the uncertainty that we live with,” “On the water supply, we’re up in limbo. We don’t know what we’re going to have. We have no idea how much to plant. It’s going to be a risk on our part.”

The reservoir’s water level stands at 415.60 feet above mean sea level, the lowest recorded at the same point in time across a five-year period from 2017 to 2022. The San Joaquin Valley is experiencing a severe drought.

“This is a very critical year for us. We’ve been through two very dry years. And last year was terrible for us,” Del Bosque said. “Some of the water that we were going to get did not get to us in time. We needed it in the spring and summer. And some of the water was held back for environmental reasons until October. And our crops suffered.”

An irrigation canal winds through almond orchards in Firebaugh, California. The orchard at the right has been torn out because of water shortage. 

“I think it’s important that California agriculture continues to thrive, not just survive, but to thrive,” Del Bosque said. “It’s important to the nation, and all of agriculture right now is trying to do more with less, and it’s still getting more expensive to grow crops in California.”

It is Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s celebrate!

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