September 15th to October 15th marks Hispanic Heritage Month, a month of reflection and appreciation of the Latino Community in America. In recognition of this month, the EDC, Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, the City of Willmar, and Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) of Willmar have partnered to create a video that defines what it means to be Latino in Kandiyohi County. We asked simple questions, including ‘Where were you born?’ and ‘What does being Latino in Kandiyohi County mean to you?’ Cano’s answers to the questions led to a larger picture of what immigration, community, and entrepreneurialism means to the next generation of business owners and Americans.
“We were all born in Guatemala,” he started, “but I was only one year old when we moved here to Willmar. Being Latino is part of my heritage; it is amplified in America but isn’t all my identity.” Cano moved straight to Willmar from Guatemala as a baby, traveling under the care of his mother, grandmother, and older sister in 2001. Remembering this over 20 years later, Cano recalls, “I think it was stressful. We first lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and later, when my aunts and uncles came, we all shared a small house. Everyone was working and just trying to get by.” While his family worked to make a living and build a future here, Cano grew up. First, he was in an ELS program at school but quickly graduated from it, much to his disappointment, as that is where all of his friends, most of whom moved when they were older, at age 5 or 6, remained. After high school, he went to school for accounting and later worked as an office administrator, but he sought more…more ownership in what he was doing and more…in general.
It was at this time that Cano, perhaps driven by that early experience of sharing close quarters with family, sought his realtor license, bought a house, joined the Willmar Lions Club, became an active member in the Latino Providers Network professional group, and graduated from the Elevate Community Business Academy. Naturally, Cano decided that the City of Willmar and Kandiyohi County would remain his home, transitioning from where he lived with his family to where he would choose to stay. “The diversity here is inviting. People can look around and find themselves. Diversity cultivates different ideas; you get more, different perspectives, and everyone can see themselves or someone like them everywhere.” Where many people think about diversity and picture the differences between people, Cano sees it as a way to unite. To unite people, he hosts a weekly gathering of young people between 15 and 30: “We get together and make dinner and talk. It’s just a healthy way for young adults to get together and share what is going on in their lives and who they are with each other.”
This natural networking may someday lead to seeing Cano in an official leadership role. “Latinos are not represented in leadership; we are not at the table,” he said. “That is also a benefit of diversity, though; you never know who you will meet, and you get involved with others.” Cano’s natural curiosity about others and his desire to make space for all voices to be heard could change that lack of Latino representation in the future.
Cano says he’ll concentrate on his professional business, selling homes for Weichert Realty. “There are cultural differences here,” Cano tells me. “In Guatemala, there are easier avenues to buy a home; you can rent and build up to buying it yourself. But here, if you are a good tenant and pay your rent on time, your landlord will never sell; they will always keep you as a renter. But many people want to own.” And Cano is helping the Latino, Spanish-speaking community succeed in becoming home-owners one home at a time, “likely around 50 people and families thus far,” he adds. As one of the area’s only known bilingual realtors, many people come to him. Cano is not only showing and selling a home, but he is also answering the question “How do I go from rent to own?” and walking them through the process; he is an interpreter and mentor for people during the process: “I will go with them to meet the lender and more” he adds.
Fernando Cano is more than a member of an organization, more than a real estate agent; he’s. .. more. Cano is what makes the Kandiyohi County entrepreneur. He incorporates a bigger picture of helping others into his work; he sees the value in unity through diversity and is a future thinker. He is assisting people in building generational wealth and ownership in the City of Willmar and Kandiyohi County – guiding people in building community and a united economy by giving them a voice and seat at the table, one home at a time.
If you would like to work with Fernando Cano, you can contact him through his website at https://fernando-cano.weicherttowerproperties.com/ or 320-905-7918.