Linda Alvarado personifies the classic American dream. Born to a poor family in New Mexico, she earned an academic scholarship to college and began a career in the male-dominated construction business.
She has said that when she opened Alvarado Construction in the early 1970s, “the number of women in our industry was less than one percent.” Since then the company has become one of the most successful contracting firms in the country, building hospitals, airports, and stadiums.
In the early 1990s Alvarado was asked to step up to the plate and join six other Denver entrepreneurs in a bid to buy a major league baseball team. At the Colorado Rockies’ first home game, Alvarado was in the owners’ box, cheering.
In achieving these things Alvarado has broken through several glass ceilings, both as a woman and as a minority. She is the first female CEO to head up a major construction firm. She is also the first woman and the first Hispanic to buy a major sports team.
These “firsts” have made Alvarado a role model, a position she is proud to play. As she told Enterprising Women, “I view my path as one that will open doors of opportunity for other women and people of color to pursue.”
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1952, to Lilly Sandoval and Luther Martinez, Alvarado was the only girl in a family of six children. Though her father worked for the Atomic Energy Commission, the family was poor and she and her brothers were raised in a three-room adobe house that her father had built, which had no heat and no indoor plumbing.
Despite these hardships, her parents—both practicing Protestants—instilled optimism, pride, and faith in Alvarado and her brothers. “My parents were very, very, positive people,” Alvarado told American Dreams. “It was clear what your priorities were growing up. There were high expectations in school, that not only would you bring home an A, but you would tell them what you had learned.”
It paid off. Alvarado won an academic scholarship to college. Her parents also encouraged Alvarado and her five brothers to participate in sports. “My father played recreational baseball and would take us to watch the games as young children,” she told Enterprising Women. “As we grew older, we began playing baseball and other sports.”
At Sandia High School, Alvarado played basketball, volleyball and also soccer and ran track. However, her parents expected more. She told Hispanic Magazine, “you couldn’t just be a member of a club, you had to assume a leadership position.”
Alvarado became president of the Girls Sports Club and captain of the girls’ softball team. Her parents’ belief in hard work and commitment would give root to Alvarado’s future achievements. “I think [my success comes] from an ability to remain optimistic,” she told the Albuquerque Tribune. “We come from a very humble background. It’s part of, I think, growing up in New Mexico that grounded me in who I was as a Hispanic, our culture, our values about family and work.”
Born Linda Martinez, she married Robert Alvarado and has three children: Heather, Jennifer, and Robert Jr.