The Past Shapes You; It Does Not Define You

Leticia Aguilar’s book, Leaving Patriarchy Behind, describes how love overcomes setbacks


By Amanda Medrano

Love: It has the ability to incite euphoria and also wound so deeply that the scars of these injuries are passed down to future generations. Leaving Patriarchy Behind: One Woman’s Journey is a window into the power that love has, including the absence of it.

Leticia Aguilar, the owner of Lety’s Preschool and Daycare, a Spanish-immersion preschool in Truckee, has been recognized for her work in the Latinx community supporting women to achieve their goals. Her book, Leaving Patriarchy Behind: One Woman’s Journey, co-authored by Truckee resident Eve Quesnel (a frequent Moonshine Ink contributor), was recently released. It tells the story of how Leticia’s experiences shaped who she is now and molded her commitment to supporting others, particularly women and children. I met Leticia because my son attends her preschool. I had the privilege of interviewing her about details of the book and was inspired by her story.

co-authored by Truckee resident Eve Quesnel, was recently released. Courtesy image

In the book, Leticia describes growing up in Vista Hermosa, Mexico, and experiencing the disparities that existed between men and women, particularly when it came to their respective rights. “The women in Mexico didn’t have the same rights as men,” she told me. “I never saw anything different from this, but I had a lot of ambition to have a life different from my mother’s.”  

The book is a compilation of vignettes that take the reader on a journey through Leticia’s major life events. She exhibits incredible vulnerability as she describes what it was like growing up in poverty, being female in a male-dominated culture, immigrating to the United States, and navigating the complex relationship she had with her parents. It highlights her resilience despite the odds against her and underscores the importance of a safe and loving home.

Safety And Challenges
I was interested in how Leticia could imagine that a different life was possible if she had never seen it. She said that from a very young age she was always curious; she questioned why things were a certain way instead of accepting them. She had a neighbor, Doña Eliaser, who was different from the other women she knew.  

Eliaser went against the traditional norms, Leticia said. If her husband wanted some food, Eliaser told him to get it himself. She was an independent woman who also showed Leticia and her siblings love and affection, which was something Leticia didn’t receive from her own parents. 

When I asked Leticia about her parents, she said, “I didn’t know what love was, but I know I lacked love.” She described to me that when she was sick, her mom didn’t stop to ask her what she needed or to offer her comfort. Her father complained about Leticia being a nuisance, and she was always in trouble with him. 

When she was younger, Leticia didn’t understand this dynamic. As her parents got older and became ill, she had conversations with them that illuminated why they parented her the way they did.  

Leticia’s father shared that he did love her, but he hadn’t known how to parent her. Her mom said that she had so many responsibilities taking care of her children, home, and husband that she didn’t have the capacity to give anything else. Furthermore, when they, themselves, were children, they hadn’t experienced love, so as they grew older and had their own children, they didn’t know how to express it. “I know that my parents did the best that they could with what they knew,” Leticia told me. 

When Leticia moved to the United States and began caring for her sister’s five children, she noticed that, despite leaving Mexico her sister was repeating their past. “I saw how my sister was exactly like my mom. She didn’t express [love] with her children.”

FUTURE AHEAD: A 1973 image of Leticia Aguilar in Sacramento at age 16. Courtesy photos

Cycles And Rebirth
As I listened to Leticia describe this cycle of lovelessness, it reminded me of an article I’d read called Ghosts in the Nursery: A psychoanalytic approach to the problem of impaired infant–mother relationships in the Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry. The article said that the ghosts are the mother’s painful experiences in childhood that are unintentionally reenacted with her own children. This article evokes the question: How can one give something not received or experienced by oneself?

Resilient Angel
Meeting Leticia, I learned that this is possible. When she started her own family, she said, “I wanted to give my children a different life; even if it was poor or simple, but with a lot of love.” The children of her preschool are no exception. “I want to give [the children] a good foundation; I want to give them love,” she told me.  

I asked about her ability to be loving and caring despite her parents’ lack of affection. She described feeling loved by others in her life, like her brother Raul. “He was like a father, friend, and brother,” she said. “He gave me a lot of love and always spent a lot of time with me.”

COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP: “I know that my parents did the best that they could with what they knew,” Lety says.

This reminded me of another research article written in response to Ghosts in the Nursery. Published in Infant Mental Health Journal, it was called Angels in the Nursery: The intergenerational transmission of benevolent parental influences. The researchers proposed that, in addition to ghosts, we also have angels in our nursery who are caregivers who made us feel safe, seen, and loved. When I proposed this concept to Leticia, she agreed that her siblings, along with Eliaser and her friends, had made her feel loved and worthy.  

Leticia considers these individuals her angels. 

What Leticia may not recognize is that she may be an angel to many others. Through her preschool program, she has touched the lives of many children, giving them foundations rooted in kindness and love.  

She aspires to empower others, especially women. She hopes that women read her book and know “that their past does not have to define the person that they are today. You can do something different even though it may seem impossible.”

~ Dr. Amanda Medrano, Psy. D., is a bilingual clinical psychologist who views the world through the lens of attachment, family systems, development, and trauma. She balances her work by enjoying the natural beauty and adventure that life has to offer in Tahoe, along with her husband, son, and dog.  


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