The magic of our region was born many, many years ago. In the 50’s you did not even need to show documents when crossing the border, even as late as the 80’s you could have forgotten your passport at home and the officer at the border would have no problem letting you cross. Times sure have changed, and while some things have gotten stricter and less welcoming, there is a small mafia of secret angels working towards a binational region that recognizes the value of collaboration between two border cities. What is now know as the Cali-Baja region was not always that way. In this edition of In Her Shoes, we bring you a very special pair of shoes- one that crosses borders, ideologies and cultures. Olivia Maldonado was born and raised in the Cali-Baja region, at the young age of 17 she crossed the border weekly to visit her grandmother in San Diego while going to school and working in Tijuana. Her favorite shoes, a pair of bright colored snakeskin print pumps by Edelman, represent everything that Olivia stands for. Strength, posture, presence and, above all, life, color, diversity, culture and a vast knowledge of the world. Her feet are very delicate, but with these shoes she walks around very comfortable. She picked this pair because her friends had made aware that she used a lot of dark colors and that she needed to add color to her wardrobe. And so, she began to shift toward color, and now she is always adding color to her shoes and her life.
Growing up she learned her strong work ethic and values from her mother. She tells us that there was a quiet model to follow, you see people who are working honestly and hard and for their family and their community. While her family never lacked anything, there were no luxuries, you had to earn everything. There was a sense of responsibility to be grateful for what we were given, and a drive to never give up. There is no challenge she will not overcome, and there is nothing that will stop her. Just over two years ago Olivia faced an insurmountable challenge, her mother passed away leaving her alone. Anyone else would crumble when facing such a hard blow, but Olivia relied on her son, her friends, her mentors and coworkers. She knows that it is all part of the journey, that everything is a part of God’s plan to learn and move on.
Her career began at a public library while still attending high school, a job that was facilitated by her mother who worked for the Mexican government her entire career. Today, Olivia has retired from the City of Tijuana with a career of 30 years, where she performed roles that ranged from recreation to, tourism to international relations with the office of the Mayor. Along the way she took advantage of every opportunity she had to learn, and through this quiet process she has watched the city grow, just as the city has watched her grow as well. Over the years she developed valuable relationships that helped create and support the collaborations that occur today between the two cities. Her efforts have resulted in the development of world class projects such as the Cross Border Express Airport connection, and, on the Mexican side, the promotion of Valle de Guadalupe Wine Country, now known around the world as a vacation destination. Today, she is ready to move forward. After 30 years of international government experience, Olivia is a key resource for businesses and legislators alike in the region. Elected Officials, chambers of commerce, business associations and small, medium and large enterprisers seek her advise for her knowledge of the binational laws and regulations, her ability to relate to diverse communities, and her expertise in public and private relations and protocol.
Upon her retirement she received a recognition from San Diego Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, such award has never been given to anyone in Tijuana. She feels that sharing this with women can help inspire them, and we can walk tall together. Olivia’s message to all our Latina readers is to look for mentors and support each other, which may mean that you recommend them for jobs, promotions, a new opportunity. Advocate for them, share their story.
“Take your time, just like you take the time to go out for coffee or to get your hair done, take the time to think of how you can help other women reach new goals, new opportunities. Ask yourself how are you supporting other women? What are you doing to support other women?”
She is a beautiful, kind, and strong woman, full of life. The kind of woman that propels other women, that believes in others as much as she believes in herself. Strong, fierce and full of color… just like her elegant pair of pumps. She loves this pair of shoes because to her, they are very comfortable. But I dare say that she is so comfortable with the amazing woman she has become, that these heels are nothing more than an extension of who she is today.