By Laura Anne Bird | Photography by Hillary Schave
If you live in the greater Madison area, chances are you’ve seen an Alvarado Real Estate Group “for sale” sign in someone’s front yard.
Sara Alvarado and her husband, Carlos, opened their independent brokerage in 2006 and have served thousands of families over the years, but Alvarado doesn’t base her success on the number of transactions closed by her team. Instead, she looks to how deeply she can inspire and engage with the community.
When Dane County’s “Race to Equity” report, an examination of racial disparities in Dane County came out in 2013, Alvarado read it in its entirety.
“I knew I wanted to make a difference in helping [to] address persistent racial disparities,” she says. She got involved in numerous initiatives, but it wasn’t until 2019 that she and Carlos took a hard look at their own company. “Racism is embedded in the real estate industry, but there are ways we can dismantle it.”
With this vision in mind, Alvarado and Tiffany Malone, a Realtor with Alvarado Real Estate Group, co-founded OWN IT: Building Black Wealth, in 2021. This groundbreaking initiative helps eliminate barriers to wealth and homeownership for Black and brown families by providing an education program and access to $15,000 down payment grants (read about it here).
“Our pilot is gaining momentum,” Alvarado says. “To date, nine families have purchased homes.”
In addition to serving on OWN IT’s board, Alvarado speaks and teaches about social activism and multicultural families, and she loves engaging in difficult conversations.
“Why? Because racism continues to kill Black and brown people every day. If we can’t talk about it, how are we going to change it?”
In March, Alvarado added the title of “author” to her ever-expanding resume. Her debut memoir, “Dreaming in Spanish: An Unexpected Love Story in Puerto Vallarta,” was published on her 48th birthday.
“Dreaming in Spanish” opens with Alvarado’s heady journey from Madison to Mexico in 1999, when she was 24. A self-described train wreck, Alvarado desperately wanted to quit abusing alcohol and drugs, heal from sexual violence, find a job and experience a new culture.
“Above all, I wanted to dream in Spanish, because that’s a huge sign of fluency,” she says.
Spoiler alert: there were some plot twists along the way.
Namely, Alvarado fell in love and found herself pregnant, which was not part of her plan.
“I wrote ‘Dreaming in Spanish’ because we all have terrifying and messy stuff in our lives, and we don’t need to be ashamed of it,” she says. “How do I handle things when I’m thrown a curveball? How can I show up with love first? Can I trust the process? These are the threads I wove into my book.”
Alvarado’s coming-of-age story is refreshing and raw, and it feels as intimate and soulful as a conversation with a best friend. She examines marriage, motherhood and her return to Madison in 2002, but at its core, “Dreaming in Spanish” offers a nuanced and compelling examination of what Alvarado says are her unearned privileges — like whiteness, family wealth and educational opportunities.
“Now that I know more about systems of oppression, I need to do better — not out of guilt and shame, but out of a desire for human rights and liberation for all.”
Alvarado hopes her book will inspire others to change what’s not working for them.
“There’s magic when we’re willing to surrender and live in co-creation with the universe,” she says. “Sometimes we make the choice to change our own life. Sometimes life happens and changes everything for us. Either way, I hope my readers learn to trust in themselves and lead with love.”