In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we invited Douglas Elliman agents to share their experiences and talk about the role their heritage has played in their real estate career.
Monica Luque, New York City Real Estate Agent
How do you prefer to identify yourself within the umbrella of “Hispanic Heritage”?
I am Colombian American.
What aspects of your identity are most meaningful for you? Are there cultural traditions or historic moments or other elements that are a particular source of pride?
Colombians are very resilient, as well as happy. Colombians live to celebrate life. I feel that I exemplify that because I live life with a positive attitude, full of joy and always looking for the silver lining. Colombians like myself feel confident that things will get better. There is even a Gallup International Poll that ranks Colombia within the five happiest countries in the world. In 2021 it was ranked the happiest place on earth.
At home, in order to keep the Colombian spirit alive, we maintain important cultural traditions. First of all, we speak Spanish, and we raised our daughter to be not only bilingual but also bicultural. Another tradition we enjoy most days is eating arepas, which are similar to corn tortillas and accompany many of our meals at home.
How did you find your path to success in real estate?
My background in architecture from the New York Institute of Technology gave me the strongest foundation for my real estate career. During my senior year, I met a prominent developer, Alvaro Londono, who offered me a job. I was only 25 years old and ready to begin the process to become a licensed New York City architect, but life had different plans for me. I accepted the job and relocated to Colombia. By the time I was 30 years old, I was the sales and marketing coordinator for over 20 new developments simultaneously. I am forever grateful because the developer taught me everything I know, from scouting a site and developing a project to investing, marketing, advertising, and most notably, the art of closing deals. With his mentorship, I learned to do deals amicably, by shaking hands and forging friendships with the opposite side, rather than approaching them as a cutthroat, zero-sum game. I still bring his techniques to the table today.
What values or elements of your heritage do you draw strength from in your work as an agent?
During the 1980s, Medellín was called the most dangerous city in the world, and that was my teenage environment. I survived frequent bombings and shootings. Because of my past I have developed a thick skin. I am reliable and confident. Most importantly, I learned that being mean and rude were characteristics of the narcos, which my father did not allow us to emulate. He taught us to always be amicable and well-mannered in every situation, which is how I approach my deals and negotiations with much success.
What impact, if any, has your identity had on your experience in the real estate industry? Are there specific moments or episodes from over the years that illustrate that experience?
Optimism is at the core of my identity as a Colombian woman, and my clients often tell me they choose to work with me because they need that dose of positive attitude while selling their property. I am resilient because my family has dealt with adversity for generations; my great-grandfather and his family had to leave their home town in Spain because they were persecuted for being Sephardic Jews. They hid in the mountains of Antioquia in Colombia for decades behind a new religion and new reality. However, they always kept their traditions at the core of what they taught my father, which he later passed onto us. While they rewrote their history, they never forgot who they were and where they came from. just like I haven’t. I am blessed to call the most amazing city in the world, New York, my home, while still knowing that I have a home in Medellin.
My life experience has also made me caring. I began volunteering twenty years ago at Helena & Juan, an orphanage in Colombia. In 2009, I joined KidSave, an organization that finds forever families in the U.S. for orphans older than ten years old. We have been blessed to help dozens of older Colombian kids find families who have adopted them. I never thought that through simple conversations with my clients, they would also feel the calling to help others. This allowed my relationship with my clients to grow into something more significant than a deal.
What would you like your industry colleagues to understand about your experience and what can they do to be better allies of your community?
I understand why people migrate. I believe no one leaves their hometown if they have a better choice. Currently, the biggest immigration wave is from Latin American countries and there is a lot of bad press associated with this challenge. I wish that our community participated more in finding solutions.
How do you think brokerages like Elliman can help foster greater diversity in the industry?
I think they should continue recruiting agents from diverse backgrounds and supporting them to become successful brokers. I am proud that Elliman leads the way in diversity and promoting women.