Friday, May 23, 2008

Isabel "Chavela" Rodriguez Presente!

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Friday, May 23, 2008
For Immediate Release

On behalf of the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, the Mexican American Political Association, my personal and extended family, Soledad Alatorre, Maria Rosa Ibarra, and myself - all who personally knew and loved Isabel "Chavela" Rodriguez, I would like to extend my deepest condolences, love, and respect to the Rodriguez family for your (our) loss with the passing of one of the immigrants rights movement's matriarchs.

While deeply saddened by today's notice, I celebrate with so many others the recognition that she was a witness to the massive outpouring of protest and mega-mass mobilizations in favor of the rights of immigrants and workers over the past three years, a crowning moment and culmination of so many of her own years of participation, and by extension those of her own progeny, in the struggle for dignity and humane treatment of all people.

She was ever the strong hand, stern look, sly smile, hearty laugh, and comforting pillar of strength that conveyed encouragement and feminist courage, when feminism was not in vogue, to a movement still too dominated over the years, especially the early ones, by male leadership. She was a pioneer along with Bert Corona, Soledad Alatorre, Socorro Jimenez, Rose Chernin, Humberto Camacho, and so many other early leaders of the movement, the modern era immigrants’ rights movement, to stand up to the repression, raids, deportations, LAPD and Sheriffs’ cooperation with the INS (now ICE), police brutality, fraudulent practices of notorious notaries public, and who courageously demanded visas and dignity for all (before the term legalization or amnesty was invented).

There was not a major movement or event of political significance in Los Angeles from the 1960s through the 1990s that she did not participate in – from Casa Carnalismo (1960s), the Chicano Moratorium (1970s), the Dixon-Arnett anti-immigrant employer sanctions marches and KNOW YOUR RIGHTS education campaigns led by the Center for Autonomous Social Action – C.A.S.A., for which she served as board treasurer (1970s), Jesse Jackson’s presidential bids and the Rainbow Coalition (1980s), the approval of the Immigration and Refugee Control Act (1980s), the movement to defeat Prop. 187 and other anti-immigrant measures (1990s) and the massive push for U.S. citizenship status by the amnesty applicants (1990s).

You could always count on a warm meal and even a place to sleep at Chavela's home, and a good regaƱada if you behaved improperly. A serious stare and a word or two were enough for you to get the message. She was ever the referee during the many, but many sharp debates about the issues of the day, and the conciliator of hardened views and sides. I was privileged to have lived in Chavela’s household for almost two years during my late twenties, taken in if you will by the Rodriguez family, and appreciated the great respect she enjoyed from her grown children and the growing number of grandchildren. I felt right at home as with my own mother, and brothers and sisters. My marriage in Mexico at that time was blessed by her presence, and my family felt honored that she made the trip and enjoyed her company.

Isabel Rodriguez will be sorely missed. She lived a long and fruitful life, and bore the movement her share of committed activists. Their (our) continued tireless participation in today’s struggles will be her living legacy to our people’s posterity.

Nativo Vigil Lopez, National President, MAPA and Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana


Nativo V. Lopez is currently the National President of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana (HML), which requires of him full-time advocacy for the civil, human, labor, and immigrant rights of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Latinos throughout the United States. He has dedicated his life to these causes since his years as a high school student where he founded the first student movement organization, United Mexican American Students (UMAS). He was born in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles in 1951 to Mexican American parents, and is of both eighth-generation native U.S. born and immigrant stock. Nativo met the legendary immigrant organizer, leader, and advocate, Humberto “Bert” Corona, in 1971 and worked with him in various capacities for thirty years with the organizations Center for Autonomous Social Action (CASA), Hermandad Mexicana, and MAPA. He was a lead organizer in the 2006 pro-immigrant marches and was part of the creation of the National Alliance for Immigrant’s Rights (NAIR) in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, go to

The Mexican American Political Association, an advocacy organization, was founded in Fresno, California in 1963 and has chapters throughout California. It is dedicated to the constitutional and democratic principles of political freedom and representation for the Mexican, Mexican-American and Latino people in the United States. For more information, visit the MAPA website at

Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana (National Mexican Latin American Brotherhood), an advocacy organization for immigrants, was created in 1951 to achieve the development and integration of Latino immigrants that live in the United States. It is dedicated to improving economic and social opportunities of immigrants and their families, and maintains that a better future for children is an inalienable right. For more information, visit the HML website at

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