“The greatest gift God has ever given me was the gift of being born a female child to a poor Mexican American family in a bigoted community. It was the passion rooted in that pain that formed the life I have been privileged to lead.” Polly remembers a childhood experience that helped shape her life. “One Sunday at church, when I was three years old, I saw some little girls at the entrance of church all dressed up in pretty white dresses. I asked my parents if we could sit in the middle aisle so I could see better. An usher came over and told us that we had to move to a side aisle as Mexicans and Mexican Americans weren’t allowed to sit in the center aisle. That’s the day I learned that my family was “different.” Even at a young age, her overriding commitment was to change the way Mexican Americans were viewed and not to be poor.
Polly’s parents challenged her to go on to college. She received a Joint Honor Scholarship that she used to attend Colorado State University. During her freshman year, a professor suggested she change her major from physics to political science, which led to an internship working with the Democratic Party during the 1960 Presidential campaign. “I was in total awe of the young Senator John F. Kennedy and his two brothers, Bobby and Teddy, and worked around the clock for the Senator’s election.” A chance meeting enabled Polly to apply for a D.C. position, which jump-started her career in Washington.
Polly’s commitment to Mexican Americans never diminished and she decided to follow her heart. She worked on civil rights campaigns, organized committees, was the Executive Director of the Southwest Council of LaRaza and became Special Assistant to the DNC Chairman.
Polly didn’t sit still when she came back to Colorado. “I had been encouraging women and minorities around the country to run for office; so I thought maybe I should think about ‘walking my talk.’ Polly was the only Mexican American woman in the country to win a State House of Representatives seat in November 1974. It immediately propelled her into the national spotlight.
A trial reconciliation with her former husband didn’t work out but it did leave Polly pregnant, which she found out right after the election. “I was the first women to be in legislative session while pregnant. I kept my pregnancy secret until it was impossible to hide. The larger I got, the more commotion I caused. 1975 turned out to be the longest legislation session in history and finally on July 1, at 6pm, we adjourned. My son was born the next day at 5:27pm.”
Polly served four years in the State House of Representatives and eight years as the first minority woman in the state Senate. “Throughout my twelve years as a state legislator and my sixteen years as a member of the DNC, the life lessons I had learned were constantly being challenged. Fortunately, I had learned first hand about making good ethical decisions and keeping a spiritual direction in my life. Those lessons served me well over the two decades, when I led a very public life in a goldfish bowl.”
Today, Polly serves as the Executive Director of the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA), where she continues to address the disparity existing between the Latino community and the mainstream community. She’s a volunteer for the Center for Contemplative Living and Contemplative Outreach International, teaches Centering Prayer to inmates and is on a teaching team for “Making Choices”; she also serves as a volunteer for Escuela deGuadalupe and Beginning Experiences. “Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned and recognize is that a higher power has been at work throughout my life. When I have surrendered my will and my life to that higher power, I have experienced remarkable life adventures that I could never have imagined as a child.”
What’s important in your life? God and family
What’s in your future? I don’t know. I live in the present moment and accept each day as it comes.
Which social event is your favorite? Bernie Valdez Award Luncheon and LARASA Fiesta
Who is the most interesting celebrity you have ever met? I rubbed elbows with all the rich and famous during the 80’s, don’t have a favorite one.
If your life were a movie, whom would you want to play your part? Someone unknown… to give them an opportunity
Do you have any pets? No
When you move, what will your home tell its next owner about you? I will never move again.
What word describes you best? Bridge…I like to be a bridge for people
How would you like others to describe you? I don’t really care, however they wish to describe me
What was your first job? I weeded onions as a grade school student. I was hired right out of college to put out an international trade union newspaper (I was the Associate Editor than became Editor, but only in work, not in name.) v
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? If I am unkind, I’d regret it.
What trait do you most deplore in others? I don’t. I try not to judge others.
What is your greatest indulgence? Work. I’m a workaholic and I work at not being a workaholic.
What type of clothes do you like? Comfortable
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Meditate
What’s the last thing you do before bed? I go to sleep watching TV
Favorite comfort food? Ice cream
Tell me something about yourself that people would be surprised to know about you. I’ve led such a public life for a lot of years, there’s not many secrets, maybe it’s that I’m an introvert and basically shy
What is the best gift you have ever given? Love
What is the best gift you’ve received? Love
What or who is the greatest love in your life? My Children
What is your current state of mind? Peaceful
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Raising two children that have high moral values
What is your most treasured possession? My faith
What is the quality you most like in a man? Honesty
What is the quality you most like in a woman? Honesty
Favorite books/writers? Author Fr. Thomas Keating and the book The Power of Now
What is the best advice you have ever received? Don’t know
Do you have a motto? “Live in the present and live each day to its fullest”
If you could come back in another lifetime, what/who would you like to be? And why? Myself. I’ve been privileged to lead an incredible life. I have no desire to do it again but I’ve enjoyed both the good and the bad.
What are your hobbies? Other interests? Dancing, movies and retreats
What do you consider your best success as a mom? That both my kids have high moral values and that they care about others
What do you consider the major responsibility of a parent? To love their children unconditionally and I really mean unconditionally.
Who is your mentor? I never had one. There were no women or minorities in responsible positions when I was growing up. It was all white males.
What would you most like to be remembered for? I hope I’m remembered as a good person – one that tried to help others.
If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would it be? I’ve already been there. Don’t want to travel anymore. Been there, done that. I’ve been all over the world on someone else’s dime and had a lot of terrific experiences.
What do you like about the town you live in? I like where I live. It’s in the middle of downtown. I have access to many different things but can still hibernate in my home.