Elizabeth Aguilera is an independent journalist who recently joined Zócalo Public Square as an editor-at-large. Previously, she was a staff writer at CalMatters and reported for the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Denver Post. Before joining the panel for “What Is a Good Tourism Job Now?,” the inaugural program in “What Is a Good Job Now?,” a new series supported by The James Irvine Foundation, Aguilera chatted with us in the green room about being a tourist, her last great read, and what she missed most about Denver.
What was your first job?
My first job ever I worked at Baskin-Robbins serving ice cream, in Monterey Park. My favorite flavor was Gold Medal Ribbon.
You used to live in Denver. What’s one thing you miss about it?
I miss the seasons. I miss fall and spring.
What’s one of your favorite places to go there?
I do like to go to the Botanic Gardens, they put on these awesome summer concerts. I’ve seen Los Lobos and B.B. King there.
What is some good advice you’ve received in your life?
To be persistent. Even if the answer is no, the thing to think about is how to make something happen.
How about some bad advice?
I’m sure I’ve received some but I’ve put it out of my mind and tried to move on from it!
What was the last great book you’ve read?
I read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes. It’s about how she had always said no or deferred opportunities and decided one day she was going to say yes for a year, and how it completely transformed her life.
The Coachella festival is happening right now down the road. If you were to organize, what would one headliner be?
I would choose Los Lobos or Dave Matthews.
When you were a kid what did you want to be?
I wanted to be a veterinarian. We had many animals growing up. Dogs, cats, chickens—a pony for a while. Our house was always a house where people brought stray animals, if they adopted and couldn’t keep it, or found a stray. Then I wanted to be a psychologist when I was really into birth order. I’m the second of five. And somehow, I came to journalism.
Where was the last place you were a tourist?
I was actually just a tourist in Las Vegas. I met a group of long-time friends there to celebrate birthdays, new jobs, and promotions. We were there for the restaurants, the spa, and the pool. Plus, dancing!
You’re writing about environmental health. What’s one interesting story you’ve encountered?
There’s one big story I’ve been following for years is the Exide story in Los Angeles. This car battery recycling plant operated for a decade in the city of Vernon, on a provisional permit. The state never came back to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to do. They emitted all these toxic chemicals that the state has now been cleaning up from people’s yards, and parks, and schools, for the last five to 10 years now. Recently, there was a huge report that they’re not doing a very good job at cleanup. I’m following that closely, and seeing where we can go with that.
What do you think makes a good job in a tourism-related industry?
I think many of these jobs are low-wage jobs, so I would hope they offer an opportunity to get a raise, promotion, and humane benefits—sick days, vacation time, and consideration of people’s family lives.