When I met Orlando Ruiz, he unabashedly told me of his propensity for playing Pokémon Go, love of hockey and weight-lifting, and pride in his ride – a Subaru WRX that runs on E85. Ruiz has many interests that play a huge part in the way he identifies as a true “melting pot of cultures,” and makes him immediately likeable.
Ruiz’s parents moved to the United States in the 1980s, escaping unrest in Nicaragua following the revolutionary overthrow of the Samoza regime. They settled in Miami, Florida where his mother attended Florida International University and gave birth to Ruiz. Her acceptance of a job in software engineering for AT&T brought the family to Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Now Ruiz’s parents – who he lovingly refers to as “bad-ass” – have based their lives in the Columbus area. His mother still works as a software engineer while his father teaches biology at Ohio State’s Newark Branch campus.
A proud Buckeye, Ruiz finished his degree in Security and Intelligence at Ohio State and works for the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration at John Glenn Columbus International Airport. This is an important step to further Ruiz’s goal of working as the head of a governmental organization in the future. We talked about his interests, his self-identity vs. imposed-identity, and his family in this week’s ¡Dímelo, Columbus! Be sure and give our conversation a listen below:
🎧 Listen (4:08)
“My name is Orlando Ruiz and currently I work for the Department of Homeland Security for the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). I was born in Miami Beach, Florida, but I grew up the last 26 years in Reynoldsburg, Ohio which is a suburb on the east side of Columbus. [My parents] are kick-ass. They left Nicaragua in the ’80s when there was a revolution going on. And then they had my brother in Miami, stayed there for a little bit and then my mom finished school at FIU (Florida International University) and got a job in Columbus – so that’s why we moved.”
“For my position, I don’t need a degree, but I did take the job because it is entry level with the government. At the beginning of my career, I need some type of experience with the field… The Alphabet agencies: FBI, CIA, NSA – I want to get to the top of any one of them.”
As Ruiz writes, “This is a taste of one of the track days I go to. And yeah, that’s an old hot rod I’m racing.”
Ruiz is an avid weight-lifter.
Orlando enjoying a ski trip at Keystone, Colorado.
🎧 Listen (3:29)
“My grandfather actually served for the U.S. Military in World War II and that’s how we came over. My dad’s side of the family was already over here, they just left Nicaragua because of the issues their country was having… [Nicaragua is] tropical. The air smells clean, think of pictures of Hawaii, it’s beautiful there… For me, it was visiting a foreign place because I’ve never been there. I grew up in Ohio. Farmland area, city area.”
Orlando’s car is a 2004 Subaru WRX that runs on E85 or 85% Ethanol fuel.
From left to right: Will, Brother Ricardo, and Orlando at Keystone, Colorado.
Held to a different standard:
🎧 Listen (3:17)
“Unfortunately, I’ve actually been harassed by the police all growing up. I’ve been held at gunpoint by the police. Regardless if I identify or not as a minority, I AM, because they tell me I AM. Period… Our rules [the TSA’s] definitely do not target individuals for religion or the way they look. It’s solely based on what they have in their bag or what they have on them. It’s shitty on my end when I get somebody reacting a certain way because they think I’m targeting them, the individual… Then I get the other end I get people saying “I don’t look like a terrorist!”… and I tell people, “Well, what does a terrorist look like?” They usually just back up and let me do my job.”
“I definitely feel for the minorities here in America. We’re held to a different standard. Period.”
🎧 Listen (1:15)
“I don’t feel like I fit into a single category. Maybe straight up American, because it’s the melting pot of the world? That’s how I feel, I have friends in all sorts of cultures…They are all in different circles… I have my hockey friends I hang out with and play hockey with, but don’t go to car meets with. So I’m just a melting pot of cultures.”
Unless otherwise noted, all photos and text are copyrighted to Leticia Wiggins. Music for introduction & interlude by The Original Soundtrack (thanks, guys!).