BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- She's not what you would expect. But, she'll tell you that she's used to that.
Linda Alvarado, first woman to become an owner of a Major League Baseball team on her own, without inheriting ownership; founding member of Denver's Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; National Women's Hall of Fame Inductee; and owner of Martinez Alvarado Construction Management Corporation - builder of Invesco Field, the Denver Aquarium, the Denver Convention Center, in addition to Buckley's own BX/Commissary and Navy/Marine Corps building is an American business powerhouse, and yet is also the most approachable, charismatic and engaging person you'll ever meet.
She came to Buckley for lunch Oct. 15 to help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Observance Month, and she spoke to the hundreds of people who had gathered there to experience dancing and food from Mexico, Spain, Central and South America. She told of her upbringing in New Mexico with five brothers, ("I have already been through Basic Training," she quipped) and of attending college on a scholarship. She gave some insight into her character when she spoke of applying for a part-time job at the college in grounds keeping, instead of the customary food prep job in the kitchen.
"I wasn't trying to make a feminist statement," she said. "I got a tan, I didn't have to go to the gym, I got to wear jeans and work with all those single guys!"
She learned her tremendous work ethic from her parents - her dad, Luther Martinez, worked with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and built the family home himself. Her mother, Lilly, raised five boys and Linda, taking in ironing to make ends meet.
After graduating from Pomona College with a degree in Economics, Ms. Alvarado went to work for a California development company, triggering an interest in the construction business which sent her back to school for training in bid estimating and blueprint reading. Determined to be the owner of a company, she drew up a business plan that was turned down by six banks.
"I tried to offer my children as collateral, but they told me that they were not assets, they were liabilities," she joked. "Sometimes people put us in a position where we quit or give up."
She didn't give up. Her parents took out a mortgage on their home and loaned Linda $2,500 to start her company. In 1974 she launched Martinez Alvarado Construction Management Corporation, starting with small paving jobs.
"Some people dream, while others take actions on their dreams," said Ms. Alvarado.
One trick she learned was that when she put in bids on contracts, she would just put her initials on the proposal to circumvent "the two negatives - being Hispanic and being a woman."
Twenty years after starting her construction company, Alvarado Construction was building convention centers, office and government buildings. In 1992 she became a member of a group, ("The story of my life is all these guys and me,") that made a bid for a MLB expansion team, winning the bid, and becoming a co-owner of the Colorado Rockies.
"The military prides itself on integration. But, the first organization to integrate was baseball, ahead of the military," said Ms. Alvarado.
She went on to explain that integration of baseball meant that salary levels were raised, not just for the minority players coming up from the Negro Leagues, but for all players, as the level of talent was raised. Owners of baseball teams made more profit as there was a larger fan base for the sport. She then made the parallel of what integration does for the United States military - it raises the talent level.
"In every case in history when there's been progress, it is because people think differently," she said.
Ms. Alvarado told the story of her life without really crediting anything extraordinary on her own part. But when one read between the story lines and the very funny delivery, it was clear to all why this woman is so successful. Her parents had been hugely supportive of her, and taught her a fierce work ethic. Her life as the only sister to five brothers toughened her and taught her to not take offense, when it is easy to do so. She credits her very positive attitude to her parents, as well. She is a real life Pied Piper with young people. As soon as the event was concluded she made her way over to the group of children and teenagers who had performed and spent considerable time with them talking and taking pictures, convincing everyone there that beside the entry in the dictionary of "Mentor," her picture was there.
The dancing was performed by the Flokloricas Panamericans dance troupe. Participants of the event enjoyed Shrimp Ceviche, Carnitas,Mofongo, Chimichurri, Dominican black beans and rice, and a sublime Tres Leches Cake. One left the event having feasted on great food, the arts, and having realized that truly inspirational people do walk among us...
"You and I can't wait for America to change its perception. We must change America!" - Linda Alvarado
Many thanks to the 460th Space Wing Equal Opportunity Office and the folks at the 743rd Military Intelligence Battalion that made this event, not just possible, but a huge success...