- 01 Jul 2016
- Posted in: News
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Honoring Two Political Pioneers
LA Plaza is a museum of stories. Stories about the role of Latinos in shaping this great city that we share through permanent and changing exhibits and a diverse range of public programming. These programs craft a rich, colorful and engaging mosaic of our history in Los Angeles.
Last month, were very pleased to share the stories of two pioneering political champions at our annual tribute dinner. Former State Assemblyman and LA City Councilmember Richard Alatorre and former Ambassador and Congressman Esteban Torres were recipients of our annual Pobladores award for their trailblazing work of 43 combined years of public service.
Their stories start with very similar roots: Both grew up in East Los Angeles and are products of Garfield High School and Cal State LA. Both were victims of social injustice that personally impacted their families; both later became actively involved in the struggles for social and political justice in the 1970’s. And both saw the political system as a means to right long-standing injustices against the local Chicano community.
Richard was a street-fighter and political insider who wielded power in Sacramento to advance Latino causes. He authored legislation to enact the state’s first bilingual education program and that granted new rights to farmworkers. Speaker Willie Brown appointed him to draw new political boundaries in 1980, and Alatorre created two new Hispanic-oriented Congressional districts in LA County that led to the election of Esteban Torres in 1982.
Torres was the diplomatic statesman who knew how to bring people together to reach consensus. The former autoworker created TELACU (The East Los Angeles Community Union) in 1968 as a community-based economic development corporation that endures to this day. With his diplomatic skills and command of seven languages, President Carter appointed him Ambassador to UNESCO and later as a special assistant in the White House. As a Congressman, he successfully secured funds to clean a toxic a waste dump in his district, shore up Social Security, and enact consumer financial protections among other accomplishments.
We are proud to honor and share the legacies of these two political heroes at LA Plaza. Richard’s autobiography is now available in our bookstore and a showing of Esteban’s personal art works is on display through July. We thank them both for their distinguished record of service to Los Angeles.