Patricia Stout long had the confidence to go her own way. Born in 1940s Mexico, she pursued business and math in school, took an airline job in the United States, married an American and, in 1974, moved to San Antonio. Although she felt isolated — “it was a different time,” she says, “there were not a large number of people immigrating” — she made friends at an oil-company job and at her church. She and her husband even started a small travel agency.
Then came the divorce. Stout got the fledgling business, and two young daughters. She was far from her family, with little support and no business training. “That’s when the new person in me was born,” she says. “It’s what happens here: If you make a decision that you are going to make it, you will make it.”
By “here,” Stout means the United States. She sought guidance, asked questions, and struggled to secure loans. For a long time, “no one would lend me a cent,” she recalls. “I’m Latina, I’m divorced, but I never gave up because I had two little girls, a house, and no child support. It was do or die.”
By the early 1990s, Stout had not only launched the Alamo Travel Group but had also started winning government contracts, hardly an easy accomplishment. The agency arranged travel for workers in the Defense and State departments, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force, and ballooned to 75 employees with $133 million in sales. Stout was appointed to two presidential boards for women in business and invited to speak at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
“I cannot believe all the opportunities that came to me,” she says.
Now, in return, she gives back. Among her many community activities, she co-chaired the Latina Leadership Institute and speaks to school groups.
“I have the opportunity to show that we immigrants come here not to take but to give,” she says. “The best thing I’m doing in my life is telling my story. It opens the doors of curiosity: If she can do it, maybe I can do it, too.”