Librarian, Book Lover, Mother, La Paz, Mexico

Visiting the library Ms. Erika Rodriguez Galbraith dreamed up and opened in La Paz Mexico was a heartwarming experience. This young woman dedicates her time and all her efforts to local children and youth development. Her beautiful network of libraries, called Abrapalabra, is a place where kids can learn, play and dream. Along with Abrapalabra’s co-founder, and a WOW Woman, Ms. Angela Rosales, Ms. Galbraith manages six library locations (with additional three opening in 2019) and stands firm on her dream to make libraries accessible for youth beyond the Baja peninsula to the rest of Mexico. “I dream that Abrapalabra, our library network, is in all of Mexico, that our children can travel through books and see that the world is full of possibilities,” she proclaims. Please enjoy positive, inspiring, and soothing words of our next WOW Woman, Ms. Erika Rodriguez Galbraith.

1. Name.

Erika María Rodriguez Galbraith

2. Where is your hometown?

La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, a Mexican state on the Baja California Peninsula.

3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?

I am a graduate with degree in tourism development. I’m a mom, a librarian and a book lover!

4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?

I have always fought to achieve my dreams and the goals that I set for myself. I am not someone who sees life go by, I am an active protagonist of my story. My life has been divided in stages and each of them I have lived intensely and dedicatedly and they certainly shape the person that I am today. I think I’ve survived many turning points and they are all part of who I am today.

Between the ages of 15 to 21 I rode horses in a Mexican sport called “Escaramuza Charra” (it is the only female equestrian event in the Mexican charrería. The escaramuza means "skirmish" and consists of a team riding horses in choreographed synchronized maneuvers to music.) winning various states, regional and national competitions. The discipline, responsibility, commitment and communication to ride in a high performance team have been without a doubt immensely valuable training tools. Those skills accompanied me into my professional performance and taught me that when we are part of a community, a better way to move forward or achieve success, is by working together.

At the age of 21 (in 2000), I moved to La Paz from Cancun to finish my studies and work in different companies related to Mexico’s tourism industry and tourism development.

At the age of 28, and after four months of marriage, I resigned from my job, dedicating myself fully to my family. It was at that time that I also became a founding member of Abrapalabra AC, a civil association that seeks to promote in children the reading habit in a playful and fun way. Through establishing children's libraries mainly in marginal communities of the city, our goal is to improve the academic performance of the children of our city and as a result reduce drop-out rates.

I am proud that I am raising two kids whom I give the necessary base to achieve their dreams and purpose. For the past ten years, the roles I have played as a mother and as a volunteer at Abrapalabra have been some of the most important and rewarding of my life. I am convinced that the best lessons I can teach my children are through demonstrating first hand the love and care for our land, encouraging them to get involved in what happens in our community, and develop a vision of how to better our people and our city.

Professionally, in addition to my work at Abrapalabra, I feel very proud to have fulfilled one of my dreams, I opened a “Little Book Store” in my town. It is a small place, but it’s full of magic and stories.

5. What did you study in school?

Tourism development.

6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?

When I was 20 I thought that I would always live in Cancun, where I would dedicate myself to work in something related to tourism. Today everything is completely different but without doubt it is everything that I never imagined but always wanted.

7. Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?

I think life is full of ups and downs; the difference is in how you face them. Similar to the lives of many others, mine had drastic changes that made me start from scratch over and over. Because of my father’s work I had to change cities and start again many times. For a child I think that was always difficult but at the same time it gave me the necessary tools to be more resilient. Having come from Cancun to La Paz at the age of 21 was also very difficult for me. At the time I saw my life unfolding there and I had to break with all those ideals and rebuild myself.

Not so much a knock out but a total stop was finding out five years ago that I had thyroid cancer. My children were young and just thinking about them losing me was difficult to comprehend and accept. I have always seen the passage of my life as a blessing. I feel that I have been infinitely fortunate because I found out very early and the process was not so complicated for me. I was surrounded by love and although many things changed, it is undoubtedly an experience that makes me grateful every day for the smallest details.

8. Advice for other women?

I think we have to love ourselves a lot. We all care, protect and fight for what we love so if we love ourselves we would always be taking care of us. You have to love what we do, do things with passion.

Sometimes the advice we give others is the advice we need to follow. I am a hyper-active person so "take your time to smell the flowers" phrase really appeals to me. Life is beautiful if we stop, observe and embrace the small details.

9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values"?

Of course we can, although it is certainly a process. It is amazing the work that so many women have done to get us to where we are today. We have to honor them and continue doing everything that is within our reach to make this world best and equal. As I said before first is loving ourselves, knowing what we are worth, what we are, what we can be capable of, respecting each other and valuing ourselves. I don’t feel that women are better nor less than men; we are all human beings who inhabit this planet, and our commitment and respect lies with all of us who are part of it.

Women, men, animals, plants, water, resources... we must take care of each other.

10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?

Definitely while traveling. I love learning about new cultures, people, food and history of other countries. I feel tallest when I enjoy the simple moments, like being in contact with nature, swimming in the ocean, riding a horse or reading a book. So I think my happy place is when I’m doing what I like the most.

11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?

It has to be horse-riding.

12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?

I want to continue being a good example to my ten-year-old Franco and eight-year-old Fernando, give them the necessary start and all the tools to fly and fulfill their dreams. I want them to work doing what they love.

I dream that AbrapalaBra is in all of Mexico, that all children can travel through books and see that the world is full of possibilities. I plan to work on it. Abrapalabra currently has six libraries and this year we plan to open three more. I know that with hard work my dream is achievable!

13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?

Fear of flying. The feeling of being in the air surpasses me, however, I love to travel so I listen to music and go for it anyway. I just would love suffer less during the journey.

14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?

I try not to think about that because if I change something, I would not be who I am right now. Although I am proud of all my achievements, definitely there are things that I would have liked to have done better.

15. What inspires you?

My children, their integrity, the way they enjoy life, how they think about other people’s feelings and seek to help those in need. My kids always inspire me to better myself, to constantly be the best example for them.

16. What are you hopeful about?

Dreaming big. I would like all children to have the opportunities to become their best selves and be set up with tools to fight for and realize their dreams.

17. What are some ingredients to a good life?

Take action when something does not seem fair to us, be part of the environment in which we are living, respect ourselves, love ourselves, enjoy the good things and always be thankful.

18. What is a quality you most love about yourself and why?

I think I was created without ability to hold a grudge. I don’t harbour resentment, and forgive easily. I do not think there are “bad” and “good” people. I believe we are all human and sometimes humans act badly. I do not think that makes someone bad. Maybe I´m wrong, but for me personally, seeing it that way makes me a happier person. I do not get hung up on mistakes of others, and I don’t wish evil on anyone.

19. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

Don’t be so intense, be more patient, calm down a bit, observe more and enjoy more.

20. What are you reading now? (What books do you gift most and what are your favorite reads?)

Now I´m reading Educated by Tara Westover. She shows us how an education can save a life. "You can call it transformation, metamorphosis, falsehood, betrayal, I call it an education." - Tara W.

I enjoy reading historical novels, non-fiction, but also appreciate strong books like “The Savage” by Guillermo Arriga.

The books I gift the most are children books because there is nothing better than giving a good book to a child.

21. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three (or more) women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description? What would you tell them if you had an opportunity, of why you admire them?

My Mom, Sandra Galbraith. She is strong while at the same time so sweet. She has been an example for me of how you must never give up and instead focus on seeing the good side of everything. I do not know how she does it, but she always finds a way to be there for everyone, to support, to listen or to solve a problem. Seeing the love she expresses for everything, nature, animals, the way she speaks to them, even plants always transmits peace and inspires me. Maybe she is making small steps, but they are always consistent and solid, from taking food to the elderly to treating everyone with respect and dignity. I am convinced that women like her, with their daily actions, are improving the world and making it a better place for the rest of us.

Lilian del Valle Chauvet is definitely a WOW Woman. She is passionate about and dedicated to improving the lives of the children in her community. She works at the “Programa Adopte un Talento” a nonprofit organization that provides the basic learning tools and encourages the scientific vocations of children and teenagers. Lilian found a way to get girls excited about science, feel pride and self-confidence to pursue careers in such barred environment for women. She does this in communities where there isn’t much support or facilities to promote women development.

Liliana Gutierrez Mariscal is a wonderful woman who lives in La Paz, Mexico. Since meeting her I’ve been continuously impressed by her constant desire to defend people’s rights, mainly women. She believes in humanity and its potential to make the most of it. Liliana also works at a nonprofit organization called Noroeste Sustentable. This organization supports the fishing community of “El Manglito” with specific development aims, strengthening of the fishing programs, sustainable fishing management and community strengthening.

22. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?

Biblioteca Infantil Abrapalabra is on Facebook.

@Bazar EncantadoLaPaz, on Facebook and Instagram.