Meet the moderator – Selina Barajas

Will you be attending the Tucson Festival of Books on March 4 and 5? We hope so! A number of PCPL staff will be moderating panels with award-winning authors. Let's meet them!

Selina Barajas will moderate the panel Latino History, Latino Stories
Nuestras Raíces Stage
Sunday, March 5 from 10 to 11 am
Tell us a bit about who you are and which panel you are moderating.

As a fourth generation Tucsonan, I am excited and honored to moderate the panel, Latino History, Latino Stories at the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books! I am an alum from both Sunnyside and Tucson Unified School Districts and the University of Arizona and hold a master’s degree in Urban Planning from UCLA. I have experience advocating for social, cultural and economic development initiatives for the community and believe in the power of connectivity and conversations. I am the proud co-owner of Luna y Sol Cafe, South Tucson’s soon to be first ever coffee shop. Our stories are important to share and I am looking forward to listening to our panelists (with a cup of cafecito in hand of course)!

Share a bit about your history with the Tucson Festival of Books, and how it aligns with the work you do within the Tucson community.

There are a lot of intersections in the work I do; from community engagement to being a small business owner. In 2020, I was invited to be a moderator for the first time. I was so excited to participate (and actually attend my first ever TFOB).  However, soon after - the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and everything started shutting down, including the TFOB.  In 2021, I was able to return as a moderator and participated in a virtual session. This was such an amazing experience to get to speak to authors and illustrators directly. In 2022, I returned as a Program Collaborator in Residence at Libraries (PCR) and helped the Nuestras Raíces and Many Nations Teams with event curation and community engagement initiatives. This role allowed me to see the TFOB through a different lens and showcased the hard work it takes from the staff to put an annual event like this together. Similar to the work I do with our Tucson community, I really strive for collaboration and bringing folks along each step of the way. 

Give a short synopsis of the book you are highlighting (alternatively, discuss the central themes of the panel as a whole)

After learning more about each author—James E. Garcia, Roni Rivera-Ashford and Reynaldo G. Santa Cruz, Jr.—the central themes of the panel as a whole is showcasing the importance of (childhood) mentors and giving back to the community through civic engagement, sports, and advocacy work. It was so impressive to read each story and hear how these characters were real people that lived right here in our backyard of Tucson and South Tucson, Arizona and walked similar grounds and scenarios as us today! Another central theme I noticed was the importance of self reflection, representation and overcoming (and dealing with) adversity. In each story, I enjoyed hearing the individual and collective narratives each story presented. I loved reading about the importance of community and how a sense of belonging played a role in each of their lives. 

Describe one unique experience you have had while reading the authors in your panel.

While reading "Pulido del Barrio Libre: The Life of Reynaldo M. Santa Cruz”, I was overcome with many emotions because my grandparents, Frank and Erlinda Gallego, were mentioned as they too raised their families within the City of South Tucson.  Both my grandparents have since passed away, so it was a special treat to hear about their mannerisms and the role they played in Lydia and Reynaldo M. Santa Cruz’s life. I love listening to stories from our elders, so reading this book by Reynaldo G. Santa Cruz Jr. was an experience I cherish because there are not too many stories about our South Tucson neighborhood. It is so crucial that our younger generations have the opportunity to read about our neighborhoods, local leaders, their legacy and the positive impact they continue to leave behind.   

Describe something that felt familiar about one of the texts - who or what can you relate to?

While reading “Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona /El Primer Gobernador Latino de Arizona,” I was intrigued to read about Raúl Castro’s experience in higher education, extracurricular sports and the professional journey of him not feeling like he can compete, even though—despite his obstacles—he was able to not just excel but thrive! I related to this scenario because we often see a lack of representation and familiarity in situations and institutions. As a result, we are left asking ourselves, “Do I belong here?”  The answer is YES, YOU DO!  I enjoyed reading the journey and perseverance of Raul H. Castro. 

Share a favorite quote from one of the books.

While reading "Pulido del Barrio Libre: The Life of Reynaldo M. Santa Cruz," I loved learning details about the specific streets that were highlighted, especially because now, while I cruise on these streets that were mentioned, I can visualize Pulido walking and the legacy he and many others have left behind in our Tucson community: 

“...He was a proud soldier who had learned discipline and honor while serving his county. And now, he was back home and wanted to show the world Pulido was back. He marched east on 29th Street and turned left on South Sixth Avenue. Along the way, several residents and business owners noticed the Army Staff Sgt. and did a double take as he passed them. They realized who the soldier was, and they began nodding showing their approval for his pride. “Órale Santa Cruz, welcome back. Looking good.”

Pulido Del Barrio Libre