Legendary Chicano Rights Activist Soledad "Chole" Alatorre Dies at 94
Until her death on March 25, Alatorre asserted that division was the worst enemy of the underprivileged. A legend of the Chicano movement is gone.
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Those who knew Soledad "Chole" Alatorre (94) praise her great charisma and enormous capacity for oration. She was an energetic woman, who knew how to convince with words and had an extraordinary handling of difficult situations, which she faced most of her life. She did it for herself but, above all, for others — migrants like her and workers in precarious conditions, who faced marginalization even within their own community.
Brave and generous like few others, this woman, a symbol of the Chicano movement, died March 25 from "unknown causes" in her hometown of San Luis Potosi (Mexico). Her memory, like that of the recently deceased Lorena Borjas, guides Hispanics in the United States like a beacon.
Arriving in California from San Luis Potosi, Soledad's first and curious work experience in the country marked the beginning of her labor struggle. At the age of 20, she began working as a swimsuit model at Rose Marie Reid, where she became aware of the difficult relationships between employees and employers and wanted to remedy them.
The pose and pool were short-lived, and she was fired when she informed her co-workers of their rights. However, she would not be remembered for her modeling, but for the campaigns she led as an activist.
She not only dedicated herself to Chicano labor rights but also confronted the KKK, lobbied for a greater presence of Latinos in the media and against the sterilization of women in Los Angeles, among other campaigns.
Her efforts to get decent treatment for the undocumented enshrined her as a myth of migrant activism.
Chole ended up working for several unions, including the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers, where she met Bert Corona, a Latino activist who said he had never met a labor organizer like her.
The Mexican had a special talent for moving people with words and leading protests towards the best solution.
Alatorre and Corona joined and faced many obstacles together: first, the misogyny that Soledad found among her own comrades in struggle; second, they focused part of their efforts on the undocumented, something that was especially revolutionary at the time, since they were a marginalized collective even within their own community.
To achieve their goals of equality, Alatorre and Corona founded two action groups: the Autonomous Social Action Center and the Mexican National Brotherhood. In the 1960s, in such a racist society, getting the media to talk about "illegal aliens" rather than "undocumented" was an achievement. In 1968, Soledad Alatorre accompanied Robert Kennedy around East Los Angeles during his presidential campaign.
With four decades of history behind it, the Mexican National Brotherhood continues to operate. It has a website and 18 offices throughout Los Angeles County, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, and San Diego. Its goal continues to be to support the newly-arrived immigrant.
At no time in her long life did "Chole" abandon political activity. In one of her last interviews, three years ago, she stated that division was the worst enemy of the underprivileged. At the age of 90, she was still teaching citizenship classes at the María Inmaculada Catholic Church in Pacoima, where he lived for half a century, before returning to San Luis Potosí.