Lessons from Mi Abuela
Allie Sanchez honors her Cuban heritage by helping others achieve homeownership.
Allie Sanchez VP, Mortgage Loan Manager, with her Grandmother on graduation day.
During Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, we celebrate the contributions of Americans with roots in Spain, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean. More than 60 million individuals living in the U.S. identify as Hispanic origin, making up nearly 20 percent of the nation’s total population.
For Peoples Bank Vice President and Mortgage Loan Center Manager Allie Sanchez, honoring her Cuban heritage is something she does every day. It means remembering her strong family ties, living lessons learned on the value of kindness and hard work, and never forgetting the struggle to achieve one’s dream. It also means helping others, as Allie puts it, “to make their American dream come true because everyone deserves to feel like they belong.”
Allie was born and raised in Miami, but her story begins long before then. Originally from Cárdenas, a city east of Havana, her parents came to the U.S. under extraordinary circumstances. At 19, her father fled the country during the revolution with a group of friends. Using his mechanical engineering training, he repaired a salvaged boat using parts from a Ford pickup truck. Upon arrival in Key West, he was helped by a church, who offered him a job as a mechanic in Springfield, Illinois. He then made his way to New Jersey, where he married Allie’s mother.
Allie’s mother was also a teenager when she left Cuba. When she was 16, Allie’s great uncle sponsored her and her mother (Allie’s grandmother) to come to the U.S. A mid-level military commander, he too fled Cuba for his safety and eventually became a successful restaurant owner in Miami Beach. In fact, he was so loved by the community that he was honored with a historical marker
that stands today in the heart of South Beach.
“Many of our family members became very successful,” Allie says. “Another one of my great uncles owned the biggest meat distributing company in New Jersey. Another served in the U.S. military.”
That success was not without a lot of hard work. Allie’s grandmother, a pivotal figure in Allie’s life, worked long hours in a factory, standing 15 hours a day, six days a week, cutting threads off women’s garments. “I still have the scissors she used in the factory. At the time, she was making $2-and-something an hour, just to get ahead,” Allie shares. A child of the Great Depression, Allie’s grandmother was a diligent saver and never missed an opportunity to teach Allie the value of budgeting and putting money aside for long-term goals.
Her grandmother also taught Allie the meaning of kindness. A gracious woman, she never raised her voice to another, even when confronted. Allie remembers with fondness their trips to Miami Beach as a young girl. Before boarding the bus, her grandmother bought extra Burger King breakfast sandwiches; it took until Allie was older to understand why. Each time they passed a homeless person, her grandmother handed them a sandwich. “She always said (in Spanish) to never deny a person a plate of food or shelter because you never know what struggles they are going through and how your kindness could ease them.”
On Allie’s 19th
birthday, her grandmother became a U.S. citizen. It may have been her birthday, but all Allie cared about was how excited her grandmother was. “It was memorable in a way that I can’t even describe. It was a very emotional experience for both of us.” Allie, in turn, honored her grandmother by becoming the first in her family to go to college.
Nearly three years after starting her career in the mortgage industry, Allie’s own grit and determination paid off. She bought her first home. “I remember closing on my townhouse, and the first person I called was my grandmother. I told her, ‘Grandma, we did it. We did it.’ The next day my grandmother was on a Greyhound bus to see the house. My grandmother believed homeownership was an honor, especially as everything had been taken from her in Cuba.”
As a Community Reinvestment Act Loan Officer in Florida, Allie showed her passion for supporting homeownership, especially in low- to moderate-income areas, by offering free home buying seminars at churches and community events. Driving hours at a time, she wanted to equip people with knowledge since too many think they’re unable to get a mortgage.
Allie moved to Washington in 2016 to advance her career and today serves as Vice President and Mortgage Loan Center Manager at the Peoples Bank Mount Vernon Real Estate Loan Center. “My passion and mission in this role are to continue to provide homeownership education and knowledge to the underserved in the community,” she says. “I want people to know that Peoples Bank is here for them, and you can have this American dream. That dream means everything to immigrants, and homeownership is the final piece of proving that you belong.”
Her grandmother’s lessons motivate Allie beyond the office into the community. She volunteered with El Centro de la Raza to help get out the vote in 2016 because voting was one of the first things her grandmother did when she herself became a U.S. citizen. She’s a member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and is looking forward to volunteering as an ESL teacher for Spanish speakers.
Allie’s grandmother passed away in 2014, but her lessons and dreams live on. “I wish my grandmother could see my home in Camano Island, sit on my deck, and look out into the water. I know she would say that the struggle was worth it just for this moment. I have a beautiful life because my Cuban family wanted more for all of us.”
Peoples Bank is committed to celebrating the diversity of our employees. We believe each person’s unique background makes us stronger and better equipped to serve our communities. In honor of Allie’s story and in recognition of National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, Peoples Bank is donating $5,000 to Casa Latina - Home - Casa Latina (casa-latina.org) - a non-profit organization based in Seattle that advances the power and well-being of Latino immigrants through employment, education, and community organizing. Thank you, Allie, for sharing your story!