The Surprising Story of an Old Friend

Our Zonta friend, Alicia Estrada, was born in the province of Camaguey, in central Cuba in March of 1961, just 39 days before the Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the new Fidel Castro regime. It was an emotional time for her family. An economically successful family with a new baby and a toddler, mother taught school and father ran the family's flourishing livestock ranch. There was a house on the ranch, and they also owned a house in the city of Camaguey, the 3rd largest city in Cuba. Under Castro, they could foresee the end of the family's independence, religious freedom, and personal property.

As tensions rose in Cuba, Alicia's parents feared for the safety of their family, and they spent much time in the family's basement as the Soviet military began to build up its presence on the island. They hid there during the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, afraid of Russian and American bombs. Alicia's father knew they needed to leave. He took the bold step to travel to Barcelona, Spain, to begin conversations with the U.S. Embassy for permission to immigrate to America. After a year, he sent for his family. Alicia's mother, brother and she followed her father to Spain, and after 3months, they were granted permission to go to the United States. They flew to Los Angeles having left behind all their possessions, their livestock, their two homes, jewelry, furnishings...everything.

Life in Los Angeles was difficult, but they had their freedom. They lived in a small apartment near Beverly and Vermont. (Alicia remembers it as a rat-infested environment.) Soon they were joined by her grandparents who took care of Alicia and her brother, Jose, when the parents were at work. In order to survive, her parents each took two jobs; father worked in factories and mother worked as a seamstress and a typist. They all had to be fully immersed in the English language. The parents' rule was to speak only in English at school and only in Spanish at home. In that way, Alicia and her brother became fully bi-lingual. After seven years, her parents had saved enough money to buy a home in Sun Valley.

Alicia's skill with English paid off, and after graduating from John H. Francis Polytechnic High School, she matriculated to UCLA where she earned her bachelor's degree with a major in Finance and a minor in Psychology. She next attended Pepperdine University where she received an MBA. She remained interested in psychology, so she went back to UCLA for a master's degree in Clinical Psychology followed by a Ph.D. in Family Psychology specializing in Autism Therapy.

She worked in the psychology field for a few years (and continues to volunteer with autistic children), but she was more comfortable with her first love of finance, and she got a job with Morgan Stanley. She moved over to banking, and then in 1986, she joined U.S. Bank where she is today, 34 years later, as Senior Vice President.

She moved to Santa Clarita in 1999, and five years later the late M.J. West encouraged her to join Zonta. After attending her first meeting in 2004, she joined right away. She has participated in many committees, including Membership, Healthy Kids Club, Virginia Wrage, Jane M. Klausman, and LifeForward, most of which she has also chaired at one time or another. She has served on the Foundation, the Club Board and she has held officer status as 1st Vice President and Secretary. Her favorite committee was Healthy Kids Club. She is passionate about hands-on service and would like to see the club create more service opportunities. She also believes we need to improve our internal communication which includes listening and mutual respect.

Alicia remains close to her brother and his family. Her two nieces are her pride and joy. She loves to travel...she may be a frugal banker, but she saves for trips. She has travelled "allover" including Europe, Asia, Iceland, Greenland, Tahiti, and more. Her favorite destination so far has been Paris. Despite her love of travel, however, Alicia has not travelled to Cuba. She explains that all of the proceeds of tourism in Cuba go straight to the regime rather than to the people. She loves reading biographies and mysteries, and cross-stitch is another hobby. The furry members of her household include "Gwen", the late Betty Seldner's cat who needed a new home when our Zonta sister passed away, and "Sebastian" a pedigreed Norwegian Forest cat that she adopted through her vet.

The Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley is very proud of Dr. Alicia Estrada, whose quiet modesty has provided tremendous value to our mission as well as to all of us. Thank you for all you do, Alicia!