About Leila Esperanza Gómez Woolley
Leila Esperanza Gómez Woolley
I find it very hard to write a biography since it forces me to pick a life to tell. I feel that I have lived several lives, each with a clear beginning and ending. Los Pirineos is my first life. So much so that it took decades before I could find it again. It has retained the clarity of the days it was lived. Who am I now? In this life I am a woman who has two grown children, three grandchildren, two cats and a parrot and who has been learning in the last four years to live a life as a widow.
I hope that that the reader will remember me as Esperancita.
Personal mission and artistic vision – other lives condensed.
Each of my stories has existed as an image, a smell, a sound or a longing. I majored in Spanish and Latin American Literature in college and grad school, read a lot and wrote what was expected to earn a degree. The stories waited patiently. Spanish fell out of favor in the late seventies and I was now on a path to unemployment. I became a bilingual teacher in a school that had little love for its new immigrant Latino students. They needed help in the sciences, and I remembered how much I loved nature and my home in Los Pirineos. I went back to school and did a graduate degree in Environmental Science.
I have been a writer my whole life. At first, I had an insurmountable problem learning how to read: for the first few years, I couldn’t quite understand the relationship between letter and sound. Some time around the age of eight I suddenly found that I could read, but had no idea how it had happened. It was as if I had walked through a door and I could now see what was inside. My mother used to tease me that I had been slow to talk and slow to read, but now it was impossible for me to keep quiet or away from books.
I retired not long ago from a fulfilling career as a teacher and found time to write. A friend suggested that we take a course in story telling and to my amazement that little girl in me was ready to write and tell her own stories.
My favorite cousin, Guillermo, was my first audience and fellow participant in storytelling and endless games in the sunlight of Los Pirineos. The freedom that I enjoyed as a child allowed me to go through a very difficult adjustment period as a preteen in the school system of New York City
My artistic vision is to show through my writing that childhood play is a source of strength and a foundation for learning. Exploring, observing and explaining what surrounds us should not be techniques that are only experienced in school. They are an essential part of childhood. I want the reader to remember how exciting it is to learn.
My overall goal as a writer is to give word to the feelings that are experienced by a child forced to abandon her home. Mine is the voice of Esperancita, that little girl who lived in a ranch away from the world of politics and who was suddenly forced into exile. It’s the story of many Latino children who find themselves in an environment where they are now alien.
I have used the conversations and adventures of two children, Guillermo and Esperancita, to show the simple pleasures of being young.