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Representative Ed Pastor, Democrat for Phoenix. Photo by Salvador Rodriguez.
Representative Ed Pastor, Democrat for Phoenix. Photo by Salvador Rodriguez.

Farewell to Ed Pastor, pioneer who opened doors for Latinos in politics

The death of the first Hispanic to be elected to Congress in Arizona leaves a large vacuum in the community, but his legacy is unforgettable.

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At a key moment for the Latino community in politics, one of the men who showed that a politician can speak more with deeds than with words has passed away.

U.S. Representative Ed Pastor became well-known after becoming the first Latino member to represent Arizona in the House of Representatives. But it was his tenacity and his constant work that transformed him into a pioneer for the next generation of Hispanic politicians.

On Tuesday, he died of a heart attack in Phoenix. He was 75 years old.

Born on June 29, 1943 in the town of Claypool, AZ, Pastor was the first of his family to receive a college education, graduating with a degree in chemistry from Arizona State University in 1966, and with a law degree in 1974.

He later joined the team of the first Hispanic governor of Arizona, Raúl Héctor Castro, initiating a political life that would take him to the board of supervisors of Maricopa in 1976, and to the Arizona House of Representatives in 1991, where he represented the state's second congressional district until 2003. From 2003 to 2015, he represented Arizona's 7th district.

A member of the Democratic Party, he became the most liberal member of the Arizona delegation to Congress, and participated in the fight for equal rights, the right to abortion, and environmental protection.

Those who knew him remember him as a "silent warrior", who never sought attention, but let his work speak for him.

The National Association of Latinos Elected for Office (NALEO), where Pastor served as president, remembers him as "a thoughtful, generous and steadfast leader."

"Representative Pastor achieved several milestones throughout his accomplished career and paved the way for future generations of Latino leaders," reads NALEO's statement.

"Pastor leaves behind a lasting legacy in Congress, a true champion for the people of Arizona," the statement continues. "He worked continuously over the years to fund infrastructure projects (...) During his time in the House of Representatives, he supported many of the Southwest’s environmental programs, and was a frequent advocate for Arizona’s American Indian communities.”

The Hispanic community and the entire country will see the legacy of this pioneer materialized in a new generation, and in the awakening of the conscience of thousands of Latinos committed to changing the course of the country.

He won’t be forgotten.

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