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Gloria Molina in a United Farm Workers event.
A beloved leader for U.S. Hispanics. Photo: @UFWupdates.

Renowned Latina activist Gloria Molina has died at 74

Her death last weekend came after an intense three-year fight against cancer.

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Gloria Molina, a Chicana leader and pioneer in California state and local politics for more than 30 years, has died at age 74 after a three-year battle with cancer.

Valentina Martínez, Molina's daughter, shared in a statement provided to KTLA:

It is with heavy hearts that our family announces Gloria’s passing this evening. She passed away at her home in Mt. Washington, surrounded by our family.

A tireless fighter for the Latino community, Molina served in the White House in the 1970s during the Jimmy Carter administration.

Molina, the eldest of ten children in a home of Mexican parents, was born in Montebello, California, on May 31, 1948, and from a very young age showed her interest in public service, becoming an inspiration for old and new generations of Latinos in the United States.

Beyond the void left by her death, Molina will be remembered by various civil organizations thanks to her tireless advocacy for labor equity, housing, health services, investment in Latino neighborhoods, and representation in Washington.

Her Legacy 

Among the numerous achievements reached throughout her career, Molina stood out especially for being the first Latina in the following positions:

  • Member of the California State Assembly in the 1980s for five years
  • Member of the Los Angeles City Council from 1987 to 1991, representing a district that included East Los Angeles and parts of the San Fernando Valley
  • Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors from 1990 to 2014, where she represented more than two million people as the first Latina on the county's five-person supervisory panel, a job more important than that of many of the mayors of the nation

It takes courage to be the 1st woman in the room and Gloria was the 1st woman and 1st Latina in nearly every room she was in. She didn’t just make space for herself — she opened the door to the rest of us. Women in politics in LA County owe a debt of gratitude to Gloria Molina,” noted Janice Hahn, chair of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, through a statement.  

Her impact was so great that Molina’s name will be immortalized on various fronts.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently voted to rename downtown Grand Park, which is now called Gloria Molina Grand Park, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced plans to dedicate the East Los Angeles Civic Center subway station to the pioneer civil servant.

Reactions

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was one of the first organizations to mourn the passing of the Latina leader, whom they recognized for her steely temperament, her incisive questions, and her eloquent oratory.

Domingo García, LULAC national president, stated: "We have lost a great champion of social justice and a tireless advocate for Jose y Maria. I was privileged to have known her and worked alongside Gloria on many battles for labor equity and equality for our people. Also, she was a staunch and unrelenting force for Latinos on issues that included access to housing, health services, investment in Latino barrios, and representation in the halls of power.”

Gloria Molina was a force for unapologetic good and transformational change in Los Angeles. She shaped Los Angeles in a lasting way while paving the way for future generations of leaders. As the first woman Mayor of Los Angeles, I know I stand on Supervisor Molina’s shoulders,” said Karen Bass, who was elected last year as the first female mayor of Los Angeles.

She broke countless glass ceilings & paved the way for generations of women leaders in LA County. I’ll always be grateful for the ways she made my opportunity to serve possible & how she fought for what’s right, no matter what,” pointed out Lindsey P. Horvath, L.A. County Supervisor.

For us, Gloria will be remembered in our hearts as our loving mom and grandmother, protective oldest sister, wise tía, and loyal friend. We will miss celebrating with her on Christmas Eve, hosted at her home decked out in a new theme for the holidays and nourished with handmade tamales and a holiday feast with all the trimmings,” reads in the statement shared by de Molina's family.

Most of all, we will miss Gloria the strong and selfless matriarch of our family. She was the first one to call when she heard that we needed help, the first to volunteer to organize a family celebration, and the first one to tell us what we needed to hear to get back on our feet.”

According to Los Angeles Times, Molina is survived by her husband, Ron Martinez; her daughter, Valentina Martínez; her grandson, Santiago; and her siblings Gracie Molina, Irma Molina, Domingo Molina, Bertha Molina Mejía, Mario Molina, Sergio Molina, Danny Molina, Olga Molina Palacios, and Lisa Molina Banuelos.

There will be a public celebration of her life at the LA Plaza at a later date.

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