Lamar Institute of Technology student Lynda Suarez, 22, is passionate about her roots and expressing herself. She loves being involved in projects that celebrate her culture and takes pride in her heritage.  

            “I take (my culture) to heart because I used to work in the fields,” Suarez said. “All my father’s bosses always treated us good. They realized, without us, they wouldn’t be able to grow their grapes.”

            Her life has taken her from Mexico to California and from McAllen to the Golden Triangle.  In her opinion, Mexican workers have gotten a raw deal in the public eye. She said many Mexican nationals do work that Americans will not do. Latinos also have a good work ethic, Suarez said. “Most (immigrants) come here because they just want a better life,” she said.   

Suarez, a United States resident and former migrant worker, doesn’t mind a hard day’s work. Born in Monterey, Mexico, Suarez worked in the fields with her parents as a youth. Later, her family moved to the Rio Grande Valley. It was there that she got involved in modeling and pageants at 16. She has earned many titles and worn many crowns.

            She was named Miss Mid-Valley Belleza Latina in 2005-06; was first runner-up in the Miss Tejana Pageant for Telemundo; and was Miss Rio Grande Valley, for RGV Magazine. She was first runner-up as Miss RGV, but spent half of the year as the reigning RGV queen in 2007 after a contestant gave up her crown. Suarez also was named Miss Hospitality in the Miss Texas Pageant. “I got to meet a lot of people from everywhere, even a participant from Beaumont,” she said.

Suarez is proud of her past. “I really appreciate the way I was brought up,” she said. It has motivated her to work hard to reach her goals. In addition, her family has always put a strong emphasis on education, Suarez said. She also enjoys playing the accordion and guitar.

            Now, Suarez works locally and attends LIT where she studies accounting. Eventually, she hopes to become a certified public accountant.  So what does accounting have in common with pageants or modeling?  Accounting, modeling and pageants all show different aspects of her personality, she said. Pageants represent a positive attitude and her social nature, her love of music represents happiness and accounting represents her intellect.

Today, pageants are about more than just beauty. Suarez, who enjoys participating in Latino pageants the most, said pageants stretch candidates and require contestants to use their minds. “It’s a big challenge,” she said. Pageants require contestants to believe in themselves and put themselves on the line. “Before, they were just about beauty, but now it is about how you think. The interview (portion of a pageant) makes up about half of your score.”

Although she has had many jobs in her short life, her most difficult job was being a restaurant owner at age 19. The restaurant, located in Mexico, was named El Tio. The word “tio” means “uncle” in English. It was named after her uncle who always had faith in her dream and something she was driven to achieve. She ran the restaurant for a year and half, and that is where she got interested in accounting.

People were asking her parents, “What is wrong with your daughter?” in response to the young lady opening a restaurant. She said, “I did it. It was a lot of responsibility.” Eventually, she gave the restaurant to her parent to run because she realized how much time and effort the job required.

Now, her dreams have evolved. She is currently an office manager for Ameridian Technologies, a company that has given her the chance to put her skills to use. Eventually, Suarez hopes to own a business. She has always wanted to work in international trade, but may decide to open an income tax business, she said.

Currently, she is trying to juggle school and work. Although she isn’t even 30, she believes time is slipping away and always puts an emphasis on improving herself academically. She wants to use her time wisely, and hopes to continue her studies at LIT. Until now, she said, she has always attended schools on scholarship.

In the near future, she hopes to participate in a local pageant in September.

At times, she said, she is aggravated by people who judge her only by her appearance. Some people have compared her to a jewelry box, small, beautiful and delicate, she said, because she is petite.  At times, people don’t take her seriously because of her appearance. “I prove them wrong and show them the things I can do,” Suarez said. “Pretty can get you so far, but not as far as academics.”

            Men are intimidated by her intelligence, she said. At first glance, they think she’ll fall for anything, but they learn quickly that she won’t.  “A lot of what I have learned has to do with how I was brought up and the fact that my parents pushed education, religion and hard work, as migrant workers. They were so important. They made me what I am.”

            Suarez is guided by two quotes, she said. “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” and “I had a dream and it landed right here in my hand.”

            For Suarez, her next dream may only be a few steps away. No matter what challenge she takes on in the future, she will certainly rely on her hard work ethic to achieve it.