April 13, 2022 630 PM
PRESIDIO — For the first time since 2019, kids in their Sunday best flocked to the Presidio Public Library for a celebration of springtime. Librarian Carmen Elguezabal and her legion of volunteers — mostly local teenagers from Project Homeleaf and Presidio High School’s National Honors Society — spent a few hours of the afternoon frantically hiding eggs around the Presidio Activities Center.
“It was perfect, especially considering the weather in the morning,” Elguezabal said. Spring weather in Presidio can be pretty well summed up by the saying “febrero loco y marzo otro poco” — this year, the loco has stretched into April, kicking up dust and keeping folks inside. Elguezabal spent the morning in the library, watching the swirl blot out the mountains.
The wind calmed down by the late afternoon, and Elguezabal and her team of Easter bunnies were able to carry out their mission. She has tried to recycle the same stash of plastic eggs over the years, though some inevitably wander away after each event. Her team put candy in small eggs and numbered a handful of larger ones that corresponded to gift baskets full of toys, snacks, and other goodies from the local dollar stores.
Elguezabal took pains to make sure that no one was left out of the fun. “Nobody left crying because I made sure I had candies for everyone who didn’t come on time,” she said. “I had a basket with some candy just for them.”
In a town whose busy spring schedules revolve around Little League baseball and Lent, scheduling a fun, secular event for all to enjoy can be tough. Elguezabal decided to host the event just before Holy Week, when many Presidio families travel across the border to be with their loved ones. “Fridays are bad,” Elguezabal testified from experience. “Middle of the week has always worked great.”
She’s an expert host, having put on an Easter bash at the library almost every year since 2000. Originally, the hunt was sponsored by a local bank and the baskets came with big-dollar prizes like bikes and sports equipment. The library has moved house and changed its funding structure since then, and Elguezabal started supplying the candy herself and taking donations of goodies from smaller donors. Though over the years she’s had to scale things down, it has always been one of her favorite events to put together.
Then the COVID pandemic came along. Elguezabal felt a responsibility to keep local kids safe, and canceled the event two years in a row. “My main concern was gathering,” she said. “But I hope now our district will stay COVID free.”
For this year’s party, Elguezabal modified some of the activities — serving food, reading a story together indoors, doing crafts — to be COVID-safe, even though Presidio’s numbers have slowed since the Omicron surge. She kept everything outdoors and passed out snacks and drinks so that families had the option to stay socially distanced.
After the hiatus, Elguezabal was moved by the sight of over a hundred Presidio kids gathering in front of the library to have fun. “It was awesome. I was overwhelmed with happiness and joy,” she said. “It was very emotional for me to see all these kids coming back to the library after years of me being the lonely librarian.”
Miranda Figueroa was dressed to the nines in a spotless navy-blue dress picked out by her mother. “We came late,” she said. Still, she somehow managed to snag a big gift basket with a coloring book and flashy toys. “We got lucky because our friend won like four baskets,” she explained.
Plenty of the kids assembled — like Cesar Ramos — came sporting their Little League attire, dressed for practice next door at the ballfields. After a full day at school, an eventful Easter egg hunt, and baseball, Cesar was wiped. “I don’t know how I do it all,” he said.
Elguezabal hopes that by guiding local kids to have fun at the library, they’ll keep good reading habits and learn to be lifelong library patrons. If local COVID numbers stay low, she’s hoping to grow a summer reading series with some help from Dr. Jennifer Miller-Ray, a cognitive research scientist and K-12 education professor at Sul Ross. “We did it remotely last year with COVID, and there were about 10 kids involved. We’re hoping to do it again and have some more participation.”
For Elguezabal, who has been trying to encourage local kids to read since she founded the library in 1983, a year before Presidio was incorporated as a city. At times, being the “lonely librarian” on a staff of one can have its drawbacks. She’s grateful for Antonio Serrano, who provides part-time help through the AARP Foundation. Still, she is often left alone to shelve her own books, order new equipment and apply for funding.
The return of the Easter celebration provided some much-needed wind in her sails. “It brought back memories,” she said. “The parents were very happy. It was a fresh start — I have a positive attitude now.”