Born and raised in McAllen, Lorena Castillo-Saldaña loved visiting her maternal grandmother’s corner store in Reynosa. She would watch her grandma, her mom and her aunts as they worked.
“I would see my mom tallying up lines of numbers,” Castillo- Saldaña said. “And I would think, ‘I want to do that!’”
That desire did not wane. After graduating from McAllen High School, Castillo-Saldaña enrolled at the University of Texas-Pan American (now The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) as a business-finance major. While going to school, Castillo- Saldaña worked at The Law Office of Jim Darling. One day, one of the attorneys in the office told her he thought she should get a degree in accounting and become a certified public accountant. Castillo-Saldaña took his advice and switched majors, even though she was in her junior year.
Making a name for herself
One month before graduation, Castillo-Saldaña took a job with the accounting firm Cortez & Negrete, PC, where she worked until one of the partners, Agustin Negrete, left the firm to establish his own. In 2007, she became a partner in that firm, now Negrete & Castillo LLP. Their firm, which specializes in individual and corporate taxes and accounting, includes Negrete and Castillo-Saldaña and five support-staff members. Castillo-Saldaña said much of the expectations of her, as a partner, she was already doing. Yet, she did feel one significant difference.
“It is definitely more of a responsibility because you have your name attached to a business,” she said.
Despite that higher level of responsibility, Castillo-Saldaña dedicates an untold number of hours to community service. She is president of the board for the Children’s Advocacy Center (Estrella’s House) and vice president of the board for Affordable Homes of South Texas. She is also a board member of Juan Diego Academy. Castillo-Saldaña has served on many other boards, as well, including the Texas Bar Foundation and the State Bar of Texas District 12B Grievance Committee. Her service on the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants-RGV Chapter includes past president. In Feb. 2019, she received an Extraordinary Women Award from Mujeres Unidas, a domestic shelter in McAllen. She has done all this and more while also being a wife to Jorge Saldaña and stepmom to Jorge’s son Nathan,
Castillo-Saldaña is especially drawn to organizations that serve children in our community.
“It’s so important to take care of our young ones,” she said, “because those years are the foundation of their lives. If we take care of them, they are going to have a better life.”
Figuring out a balance
Castillo-Saldaña serves, she said, “because it’s part of who I am. Things in my life are not perfect, but I am blessed, so I give back, in gratitude.”
People often talk about the importance of achieving balance, but when asked how she does this, laughing, Castillo-Saldaña responded, “I don’t have it. I have not figured out how. The key is probably to give up the extra-curricular activities, but they bring me joy.”
Castillo-Saldaña credits her parents for her tenacity and her drive in business and in serving the community.
“It feels good that I’ve been able to pursue my dreams, my goals,” she said. Castillo-Saldaña explains that when her mother was younger and still living at home, her father would not allow her to attend a sewing school that was across the street from their home because the classes were at night. “He told her, ‘A decent young lady does not walk around at night,’” Castillo-Saldaña said. “My parents have always told me anything is possible. I was never told, ‘You can’t do that because you’re a woman’ — not at home and not at school.”
Castillo-Saldaña also credits her strong faith.
“I always have hope, and I always try to be positive,” she said. “My faith sustains me. It gives me strength.”