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Dallas-Ft. Worth

Latinos make up the fastest-growing ethnic group in the US and more than one-third of the population of Texas. It's fair to say their impact on CRE will be significant. (Just recall all the multifamily buildings with moptops that came with the British Invasion.) Here's a look at what some Hispanic movers and shakers are doing in DFW.

Lorena Tellez Toffer, Yesenia Blandon, Terry Salinas, and Jimmy Castellanos

Above, Corgan?s Lorena Tellez Toffer, Perkins+Will?s Yesenia BlandonTerry Salinas, and Jimmy Castellanos. Yesenia and Jimmy led the effort to form the Latinos in Architecture committee through AIA Dallas. The organization focuses on community involvement, professional networking, and educational outreach. LiA is currently in the midst of its annual book drive, Yesenia tells us, which ends Aug. 19 (more info). Last year, they hoped to collect 200 architecture books for DISD schools and netted 900. Now, the leaders are helping San Diego and Austin AIA chapters launch similar book drives. About 30 volunteers (with the Dallas CityDesign Studio) are also helping the La Bajada neighborhood residents with the height measurements of around 336 houses with hopes of preserving and protecting the neighborhood as a single-family residential zone.

Jimmy Castellanos

Jimmy says the idea was to meet and get to know the other Latino architects in DFW, so he and Yesenia started the group informally and then approached AIA Dallas about starting a committee. The group is an open resource to everyone, not just architects, Yesenia says. In a little more than a year, AIA Dallas LiA has more than 200 members and Austin launched its LiA committee recently; Jimmy tells us other AIA chapters have contacted them for info on starting their own group.

Yesenia Blandon

Growing up in Medellin, Columbia, Yesenia began her architecture education there and is a first-generation college graduate. She sometimes encounters a double-edged sword: she's both Hispanic and female working in a male-dominated field: ?I sometimes feel like the challenge is greater for us, but at the same time, I think there are a lot of leaders who are very open to new ideas.? The growing Latino population has increased interest in a new market, too, she says. She's clearly doing ok: she was this year's recipient of the Texas Society of Architects Associate of the Year Award.

Terry Salinas

Growing up in San Antonio, Terry says her parents were the first to attend college on both sides of her family and she learned her strong work ethic from watching them struggle to succeed. While her mother was Mexican-born, Terry grew up very Americanized and was never formally taught Spanish. ?Sometimes I feel a little left out because I have a certain understanding of the culture, yet if someone starts talking to me in Spanish, I'm at a loss,? she says.

Lorena Tellez Toffer

Growing up in Mexico City, Lorena was the first in her family to choose a career outside of the family tradition of accounting. Typically in large Mexican families, the children follow their parents and older siblings because they can use the same books and lessons to earn a degree, she says. She was also among the first architecture students at Monterrey Tech in Mexico City. Starting something new was part of what inspired her to join LiA, she says. Her Mexican influences play a role in her design orientations, too. ?In my studio at Corgan, I'm known for not being afraid of color. I go bold, maybe with an accent wall, for instance.? Lately, her work has focused largely on interior projects and museums, including a recent library project for the Sixth Floor Museum.

University Health System in San Antonio

Jimmy says he is from a different generation and came to the states when he was six and is a first-generation college grad (his parents only had elementary school educations). ?It was very difficult when they started here. They had to fight to succeed and make a name. But that is embedded in you; in the way you work for your career,? he tells us. Today, Jimmy and Terry are working on a 1M SF project for the University Health System in San Antonio (photo courtesy of Perkins+Will). The project is going for LEED Gold and the construction drawings should be done by the end of the summer.