Honoring Hispanic Heritage in Iowa

These individuals were originally highlighted as entrepreneurs and role models by the Office of Latino Affairs at the Iowa Department of Human Rights.

In honor of Hispanic American Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the achievements and stories of Hispanic Americans who have chosen to call Iowa home. In this collection, you’ll find profiles of inspiration, passion and entrepreneurship.

Jaime Leiva, Boersma Insurance Agent – Des Moines

Headshot of Jaime Leiva.

Home country: El Salvador

  • Jaime is an immigrant from El Salvador, who made the journey to the United States on his own when he was 10 years old. 
  • In his current position as an insurance agent with Boersma Insurance Services, he educates the community on the importance of protecting the things they value most: family, home and assets. 
  • Jaime is the founder and president of the United Futbol Academy. He also served as a board member of the Iowa Latino Center and helps Latino families kickstart their businesses by providing guidance and coaching.
  • “One of my biggest accomplishments is helping build the next generation of leaders for our state.”
  • Advice for Younger Generation: “The only thing [you] can control in your life is your attitude, therefore there is no excuse to give less than your 100% effort.” 

Adriana Rodriguez, Owner of Jose’s Tires – Davenport

Headshot of Adriana Rodriguez

Home Country: Mexico

  • Adriana came to the United States from Mexico when she was 10 years old. Her father opened his first tire shop in Chicago and later in the Quad Cities. When her father was ready to retire, Adriana took over the business, opening another location in Davenport in 2016. 
  • Adriana always tries to take the opportunity to educate customers on tires because she believes that educated customers can make more informed decisions. She believes education is a key facet of customer service. 
  • Adriana sees her father’s legacy as the heart of her business and is devoted to good service, kindness toward customers and hard work. As a woman working in the auto industry, she is supportive of others breaking into new roles, regardless of typical industry expectations. 
  • Advice for Younger Generation: “Find your gift, start saving and do your research. Start small and work yourself up. The first two years of owning a business are like the first two years in a marriage: you are testing the waters.”

Gabriela Rivera, Assistant Director for Diversity, Inclusion and Student Success, Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa – Iowa City

Headshot of Gabriela Rivera.

Home Country: Mexico

  • Claudia ‘Gabriela’ Rivera was born in Mexico and moved to Davenport, Iowa, in 1988. As a first-generation college student, she completed all of her higher education in the United States starting at Scott Community College
  • Gabriela received her Master of Arts in Student Development in Postsecondary Education from the University of Iowa in 1999. Since then, she’s served as a member of the Strengthening and Valuing Latino/a Communities in the State of Iowa Conference. She’s passionate about immigrant and women’s issues, mentoring, social justice and leadership development. 
  • Advice for Younger Generation: “You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”

Nicholas Salazar, Operations Manager – Muscatine

Headshot of Nicholas Salazar
  • Nicholas Salazar is a fifth generation Latino of Mexican heritage. His family migrated from Texas to Muscatine, Iowa, during the 1960s to do farm work. He currently works in supply chain management in Muscatine. 
  • Nicholas also serves on many councils and boards dedicated to creating inclusive communities across Iowa’s workforce. His greatest accomplishment has been finding solutions that empower and inspire members of the Hispanic community at the local and state level. 
  • Advice for Younger Generation: “Always know where you’re going but never forget where you come from.”

David Suarez, Community Development Manager – Ottumwa

Headshot of David Suarez

Home Country: Ecuador

  • David came to the United States in 2006 from Ecuador to work for a Latino newspaper in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Since then, he’s transitioned to Community 1st Credit Union, working to provide financial education to new immigrants. He strives to create partnerships and support nonprofit organizations that assist underserved populations and low-income families in the central and southeast Iowa. 
  •  David has been very involved in southeast Iowa’s Hispanic community in. He says that his biggest accomplishment is being able to be useful and have the opportunity to serve others.  
  • Advice for Younger Generation: “Be prepared for the future. We have to bring forward a new generation of leaders; for that reason, we have to train our young people very well!”
Published September 16, 2022

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