When Humberto S. Lopez was 12, his father died unexpectedly, closing the door on the world that had been his. Gone was his comfortable life as the son of a successful rancher in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico. Gone were the days when his mother could care for her six children without worrying about how she would feed them.
The Lopez family moved to Nogales, Arizona to live with their maternal grandmother. Lopez, the oldest of the children, worked hard as a young boy to feed the family. He saw no way to escape unless he took advantage of an open window education. That, he determined, was the key to the future.
He washed dishes, dug ditches, worked the fields, and bagged groceries, soon realizing that without an education his future and prospects of a better life would have been very bleak.
Losing his father at such an early age, Lopez learned to cope with, and eventually create, a new reality. “I probably would not have been so driven to exceed if I had not had a good lifestyle and then gone to poverty,” he reflects. There is a dicho, a Spanish proverb or truism, which says, “Hay que aprender a perder antes de saber jugar.” Translated to English it means, “One must learn how to lose before learning how to play.” In effect, that is what happened to Lopez.
He initially enrolled in Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona, where he received an associate’s degree in 1967. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Arizona in 1969.
Why did he choose accounting? “It was the first course I took, and I liked it,” he said.
Armed with a college degree, Lopez took two more important steps toward the life he wanted. First, he married Czarina Montano of Nogales, Sonora, a young woman he had met during his days as a student at the university. Second, he decided to begin his career in Los Angeles, not Arizona.
His first job as an accountant was in the audit department of Deloitte Haskins and Sells, where he developed an expertise in the real estate field. It was during this time that Lopez launched his own investment company, borrowing $1,000 for a real estate purchase. He then reinvested the $3,000 profit from the first piece of property, parlaying that into a $5,000 profit.
The investment chain had begun.
In 1975, Lopez teamed with Glenn Toyoshima, CPA, to form HSL Properties. Within four years, the company had investments in California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Georgia. By 1980, with HSL Properties thriving, Humberto and Czarina decided it was time to move the family from Los Angeles to a smaller community. They chose Tucson, Arizona.
“Our only daughter at the time was 10 years old and we wanted an environment that lent itself to knowing the parents of the friends our daughter would grow up with, and Tucson was the perfect place,” he said.
In the meantime, HSL Properties continued to prosper. Today, the company is the largest apartment owner in Southern Arizona and the owner of numerous Tucson hotels.
In addition, Lopez has served on the board of directors for a number of for-profit public and private companies. He has been board chairman for Paragon Vision, Tucson Savings and Loan, and ValEquity; and is currently a member of the board of directors of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, Santa Barbara Auto Group, and Arizona Public Service.
Czarina also quickly became instrumental in a number of Tucson causes. Her past involvements have included Tucson/Mexico Sister Cities, Tucson Museum of Art League, Open Inn, Angel Charity for Children, La Frontera Center, Steele Memorial Children’s Research Center, Las Familias, Friends of the Cancer Center, Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, Salpointe and St. Cyril’s Foundation, and the Center for Integrated Medicine. She currently serves on the boards of San Miguel High School, Tu Nidito, Catholic Community Services, and the Catholic Community Services Foundation.
This profile, however, does not represent the sum of Humberto S. Lopez. Rising from a life-changing experience as an adolescent, he is more than a business success story and family man. One of his many other descriptors is that of philanthropist. Lopez believes that philanthropy also includes giving of one’s time, energy, and expertise.
Lopez supports causes related to education, health, and welfare. His extensive community service includes several board memberships at The University of Arizona and throughout the Tucson community. His efforts have been recognized by numerous organizations, including the Father’s Day Council, and he has been awarded City of Hope’s Man and Woman of the Year, the Tucson Hispanic Council’s Man of the Year, the University of Arizona Hispanic Alumni Association’s Alumni of the Year, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year, CCMI Real Estate Legend, and the Tucson Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year.