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Jose Ruiz on managing Dulcelandia, coming out and being an immigrant
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-11-01

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When José Ruiz arrived in the United States 12 years ago from his hometown of Guanajuato, Mexico, his life changed in many ways—both personally and professionally. This included being able to live his truth freely as an openly gay man without fear or shame.

Ruiz was born May 10, 1978 ( Mexican Mother's Day ) in Guanajuato and studied at Francisco Madero School and District 230 Ocampo High School. He later became a pre-school teacher while still living in Mexico but does not plan on being an educator in the United States.

Most of Ruiz's family members live in Chicago; however, his parents ( who are retired ) live in Guanajuato. Ruiz visits them a couple of times a year.

Ruiz is currently the manager of Dulcelandia Candy Store in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood—a position he has held for the past decade.

Eduardo Rodriguez started Dulcelandia ( which also has locations in Brighton Park, Logan Square and McKinley Park ) after the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed in 1995. Rodriguez's daughter, Eve Rodriguez ( Dulcelandia Candy Store vice president of branding and Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar creator ), explained that her dad's idea for the business came from realizing there was a market for authentic Mexican candy and piñatas in Chicago. Hiring Ruiz was a natural fit for the Rodriguez's business mission.

"My role is to make sure that every person who enters Dulcelandia feel welcome, that they have a wonderful visit with us and leave with a big smile," said Ruiz. "After all we sell candy, piñatas and frozen yogurt. I also make sure that everyone who works in the store enjoys what they do and are able to do so with confidence. I want them to think of me as family since we spend a lot of time together. Of course, and no less important is, keeping the store very organized and presentable so that our customers are excited to visit and happy with their purchases. Since I started working at Dulcelandia, the store has expanded and the neighborhood is more popular than ever."

"José is a dedicated, self-motivated and efficient manager," said Eve Rodriguez. "We all enjoy working with him and look forward to his huge smile and delightfulness the minute he walks into Dulcelandia."

Ruiz's life partner of 11 years is Vicente Diaz.

"If I was still living in Mexico I do not think I would have a partner, let alone living so many years with him for the simple reason that in Mexico being gay for me was a nightmare, not being accepted," said Ruiz. "Here in Chicago, I can be whoever I want to be and that is the reason why we have not wanted to live in Mexico. Growing up, I had to endure taunts and insults. I felt fear, shame and did not have anyone to really turn to. In my case, I preferred to remain locked in my house for many years. I could not do many things during my youth because of fear of being insulted so I isolated myself both personally and professionally. I am glad things changed for me once I decided to be the happiest person I could be."

As far as the current political climate is concerned, especially regarding immigration, Ruiz said "America's immigration policies harm not only undocumented immigrants but entire families, businesses and more. My advice is for people to live day to day without fear and enjoy what life gives you."

In terms of what Ruiz likes to do for fun; he enjoys spending time with his partner, hanging out with friends, sharing holidays and special moments with his family as well as watching movies ( mostly comedies ), dancing, taking walks in nature, meeting new people and making new friends. Ruiz said he considers himself to be a very cheerful person and his dream is to move ahead and live life to the fullest.

See dulcelandia.com/ and twitter.com/dulcelandiachi for more information .


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