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Journey from Hard Times

Leticia Aguilar is awarded Soroptimist 2011 Woman of Distinction
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INFO: Lety’s Preschool and Daycare, License #293611189, (530) 587-5267

Her house is a flurry of activity. Sisters, nieces, her son and daughter, grandson, and other family members grab jackets and hats, embrace one another, and say their goodbyes. For the past few days, Leticia Aguilar and her husband, Ramiro, have hosted 15 members of Leticia’s family. I imagine, from witnessing such demonstrative gestures, that Leticia’s life was always filled with love and happiness. But I soon learn that her earlier life was anything but joyous, and it certainly was not filled with love.

Leticia, one of 18 children, grew up in Jalisco, Mexico. She and her family lived in a large, one-room house, separated into two sections with curtains. All babies, except one, were born at the house with the assistance of a midwife.

'Because we never talked about babies,' Leticia said, 'I never knew when my mom was pregnant, until the day I heard the baby’s cry.' Just one day after a baby was born, Leticia’s mother was back working from the early hours of the morning to the late hours of night, doing whatever she could to take care of her growing brood.

Her father worked in the fields, and at home was a strict disciplinarian, never displaying any kind of affection and punishing behavior he deemed inappropriate. The family often went hungry, yet the best meal was served on Sundays — a pot of chicken soup made from water, vegetables, and the head, feet, and neck of chickens. Birthdays and Christmases were never acknowledged except for an occasional cup of hot chocolate. Girls played sports in her hometown, but Leticia was always getting into trouble for doing so; she was directed she should be concerned with getting married by age 14.

This environment was the only one Leticia knew, but she had a sense it wasn’t her environment. When she was 12, she took a hard look around, noticed women carrying wood for their stoves, their skin dried, their countenance weary, children without shoes, and so much sadness in all their faces.

'If I stay here,' Leticia remembers thinking at the time, 'I will have a child every year, and I want to complete high school and help my family, financially.' Leticia decided this wasn’t the life she wanted for herself, that she wouldn’t follow the path of her mother and most girls in her hometown in Mexico. Taking her chances, she accepted her older sister’s offer to move to Sacramento and take care of her five children.

After a couple years in the U.S., Leticia returned to Mexico and finished her high school degree. She also obtained her U.S. green card, always with the forethought to come back to America and claim citizenship, which she achieved. In California, she married a supportive husband, had three children, started a Spanish-immersion preschool in Truckee, and in her forties, attended college and finished not just one associate degree (AA) in early childhood development, but three. Her preschool, Lety’s Preschool and Daycare, now 28 years in business, is one of the most revered in the area, a long waiting list proving its popularity. Leticia is also involved in the Family Resource Center, Soroptimist, Rotary Club, and feeding and helping organize funerals for Latino families. One of her most passionate causes is encouraging women to attend college. Leading by example, Leticia has shown other Latino women that no matter the language barrier, age, or roadblocks, college is attainable.

On Oct. 27, Leticia received the annual Ruby Award (locally referred to as the Woman of Distinction): Women Helping Women, by Soroptimist International of Truckee-Donner. At the event held in downtown Truckee, Leticia thanked many people: family, friends, coworkers, teachers, Soroptimists, and lastly, her mother, Maria Gonzalez. While her mother’s life was not the life Leticia would lead, Leticia says she learned from her what one accomplishes through hard work. Over 10 years ago, for her mother’s 79th birthday, Leticia brought her to the United States and organized Maria’s very first birthday party. With each opening of a gift, her mom would say, 'That’s for me?'

Almost 20 years before, her father had given Leticia a gift she had never received. A month before he died, he confessed to Leticia that he did not know how to be a father and that he loved her.

'He smoothed my hair with his hand and stroked my cheek,' Leticia said. 'It was the first time he ever did that.'

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November 8, 2018