What they left behind so I could thrive

This article, by Paulina Aguirre-Clinch, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on September 17, 2023.

Soy la hija de inmigrantes. I remember it like it was yesterday. Arriving to our new-to-us house on Calle Acapulco and getting a taste of the scorching Tucson sun. First thing my mami did was put us in the gleaming white bathtub to cool off. We were home. I was five and my brother was three.

Those first few years were tough, especially on my parents. In Mexico, they held prestigious positions as bankers. “Ay apa, ya vas empezar,” I gripe, but listen carefully as my dad tells me a story (usually the same one) of his days as a manager in Sonora. My dad’s effusiveness gives me a glimpse as to what they left behind to come to the United States. And if I’m being honest, it also breaks my heart a little.

To make ends meet, my parents worked a long series of random jobs. Many a weekend you could find us at the swap meet selling all sorts of odds and ends—gardening tools, Avon and Mary Kay products, toys, Mexican candy, saladitos con limón, you name it. My dad also worked as a dishwasher and then a waiter at a Mexican restaurant. My mom had a newspaper route and an ice cream truck. For a long while, she was one of those ladies at the grocery store giving out samples. My dad retired first after working 20 plus years as a truck driver. My mom retired a bit later to help take care of my nephew. She had been a teacher’s assistant for over 25 years.

I share this because sometimes we forget. Se nos olvida que... “there is no shame in our parents’ struggle, they show us what courage, resilience, and sacrifice look like. A veces se nos olivida how privileged we are to receive an education, have jobs we enjoy, have rights, and resources our parents didn’t. Hay que ponernos las pilas y echarle ganas” (poem selection from Mariposa by Kim Guerra).

So that’s exactly what I did. Me puse las pilas and got to work. First, as a library assistant for the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and then as a substitute librarian for Pima County Public Library while finishing library school. Unfortunately, by the time I graduated, PCPL wasn’t hiring. I moved to Portland, OR and worked my first professional job as a bilingual youth services librarian at Multnomah County Library. My time in Oregon was magical, but la sangre llama and I came back home to be with my family and serve my community.

This year I celebrate 13 years with PCPL and as Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek would put it, “Um, love that journey for me.” If you haven’t watched Schitt’s Creek, you’re missing out. The show almost single-handedly got me through COVID. It’s up there with Game of Thrones, except it’s nothing like it and has a much better and happy ending. If you’re in need of some lightheartedness and hilarity in your life, do me a favor and check it out from the library (see what I did right there?). And while I’m at it, here are a few more of my favorite library things (this list is not exhaustive, I repeat) in addition to the wonderful and caring library staff.

MyPCPL App – I not only placed my book on hold, but also checked it out with the app when I got it delivered. Last favorite read was After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez. I’m anxiously waiting for the second one in the series, Full Moon Over Freedom.  

Paulina Aguirre-Clinch is a Library Services Manager and a member of multiple teams, including Many Nations, Nuestras Raíces, and the Seed Library.