Uplifting the Spirit using my voice & talent.


People who are pioneers don’t often take time to pat themselves on the back.  They just keep focused on their work or passion.  Ruth Ortega of Ortega Insurance Services is one of those people.  She was the first woman in Santa Fe to own an independent insurance company and she was one of the first board members of the Santa Fe Community Foundation.  Her pioneering commitment to the City Different doesn’t stop there.  She belongs to or has been involved with more than a dozen organizations, including her precious La Sociedad Folklórica.

Ruth’s career in insurance started in 1959 when she got a job with the Frank Gomez Agency.  As a mentor, Gomez helped her decipher the complicated world of insurance and become a recognized authority in the insurance industry.  Ruth became his office manager, Vice President of his company; and in 1984, she bought his insurance division.  Ruth says she grew her business by being involved with the community.

Ruth is married to Henry Ortega, a retired Industrial Photographer with Los Alamos National Lab.  She has three children…Michael, Deborah, and David, six grandchildren, and one great grandson.

1.  Carla:  When you first started, what was it like being a woman in the man’s world of insurance?

Ruth: “It wasn’t that simple sometimes.  Unfortunately, women have to prove themselves a little more than men.”

Carla:  You’ve been a mentor to other women, haven’t you?

Ruth: “I’ve been able to spread the knowledge that I have with various young women who have worked for me over the years and have gone to work for other agencies in town.  I have had some of those owners tell me, Ruth, you trained them well.”

2.  (Ruth is the longest serving board member of the Santa Fe Community Foundation which gives grants to non-profit organizations.  In 1982, Ruth helped award the first grants which totaled $1,500.  This year, the Foundation will give out grants totaling $325-THOUSAND DOLLARS which is strictly interest generated from its endowment.

Carla:  Why is it important for you to be involved with the Santa Fe Community Foundation?

Ruth: “I’ve just had a real passion for people that are in need.  I grew up that way.  And I want to help people.  The Santa Fe Community Foundation is very versatile.  They do so much for the community, but the main thing is that the monies that go into an endowment stay there forever, and only the interest is used for grants to non-profit organizations.”

Carla: How do you feel when grant recipients come to you and say thank you?

Ruth: “It just sends chills up and down my spine and it is most gratifying to know that we have helped.  The foundation has been working so hard to help the community and non-profit organizations.  There are so many people in need.  The monies available from the endowment, interest only, are not enough for all the organizations that apply for grants.”

3.  (Ruth has been a member of La Sociedad Folklórica for 35 years, and cherishes the organization’s commitment to preserving the language, culture, and traditions of Spanish Colonial New Mexico.)

Carla:  What is your favorite tradición (tradition) or costumbre (custom) that is kept alive by the Folklórica?

Ruth: “Our Merienda Fashion Show has been presented since 1935 and is my favorite– only because we have an extraordinary collection of authentic clothes worn as early as the 1800’s.  We are so fortunate to have such a well preserved collection and we’re very proud of it.  It is one of the most wonderful treasures that we can give the community… for them to see how people dressed decades ago.”

Carla:  In some ways, the merienda is kind of like playing dress up?

Ruth: “Yes, it is.  Our members, their families, their children, grandchildren, and guests really enjoy modeling the clothes.”

4.  Carla:  Where do you get your energy?

Ruth: “(Laughter!) Where do I get my energy?  Carla, I don’t know.  My poor husband…my poor husband!  He says, ‘I don’t know about you.  You run circles around me.’  (Ha-ha!)  You know I think it’s something I inherited.  I believe in inheriting traits, don’t you?  I inherited so much from my grandmother.  She was an amazing woman.  To me, she was also my mentor.  She was great. She taught me so many things, Carla.

5.  Carla:  You could be retired by now.  Why are you still working?

Ruth: “I like what I do.  I enjoy the people in the community.  It gives me a sense of still belonging.  I have many friends.  In fact, most of them in the Folklórica —they’re all retired.  I’m probably the only one left that’s still working.  I feel an obligation to my policy holders, to the community.  I just feel that as long as I have my health and I like what I do…I’ll be here.”

Author’s Note: The 2009 Merienda Fashion Show sponsored by La Sociedad Folklórica will be held at 3:00 p.m., Saturday, September 12, 2009 (Fiesta Weekend) –James Little Theatre at the New Mexico School for the Deaf, 1060 Cerrillos Road.  Admission is $10 per person.


August 31, 2009 - Posted by | Ruth Ortega, Santa Fe Hometown News |

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