Gloria Molina, Chicana who blazed paths throughout L.A. politics, dies


Gloria Molina, the daughter of working-class dad and mom and an unapologetic Chicana who reworked the political panorama of Los Angeles, died Sunday evening after a three-year battle with most cancers.

Her dying at her dwelling in Mount Washington, surrounded by her household, was confirmed in a Fb submit on Molina’s official account. She was 74.

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Molina’s political life had been a sequence of firsts that impressed generations of ladies and Latinos to hunt public workplace — the primary Latina Meeting member in California, the primary Latina on the Los Angeles Metropolis Council, the primary Latina on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

By her rise, Molina strode via L.A.’s corridors of energy with an outsider’s skepticism and an insider’s know-how. A populist equally knowledgeable by the Chicano and feminist actions and the immigrant ethos of her dad and mom, Molina’s battlegrounds have been many.

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Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Councilmember-elect Gloria Molina in L.A. on Feb. 12, 1987.

(Penni Gladstone / Los Angeles Instances)

In Sacramento, she confronted politicians who sought to dump prisons and polluters in her Eastside district. On the Metropolis Council, she spearheaded efforts to construct reasonably priced housing and have avenue sweepers clear neighborhoods uncared for for many years by native officers. As a supervisor, she efficiently pushed again towards public worker pension spikes and work perks, like a personal chef and private driver for the supervisors.

Fernando Guerra, director for Loyola Marymount’s Heart for the Research of Los Angeles, described her as a “good convergence” of communities — girls, Mexican Individuals, the Eastside — lengthy ignored by L.A.’s energy brokers, usually each white and male.

“Regardless that she was a part of the system,” he stated, “she by no means gave up on the truth that it is best to by no means take its phrase with no consideration.”

Molina relished any alternative to antagonize critics — and there have been many over a 32-year political profession.

Bigots wrote nasty letters that Molina insisted staffers tack onto pin boards in her workplace. Division heads and their staff snickered that sizzling flashes provoked her pointed queries throughout board conferences. She persistently defied Eastside politicos who tapped into her organizing smarts for his or her earliest electoral victories however wouldn’t help Molina as soon as she determined to run for his or her seats.

“Sooner or later, the prepare goes to cease and individuals are going to say, ‘Gloria, what have you ever executed?’” one in every of them informed The Instances in 1993. “‘What’s the agenda? What are the options? What’s this system? Are we higher off because of you being in workplace?’”

Former Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a frequent goal of Molina’s sharp stares and sharper tongue, as soon as described her type as “governance by tantrum.” He was one in every of dozens of L.A. political and cultural heavyweights — previous colleagues, former foes, longtime admirers and lifelong associates — who reached out to Molina in individual, by way of telephone calls, or via passed-along messages to pay their respect after she introduced her most cancers prognosis in mid-March.

“It’s not like there was a purple carpet laid out for her,” stated Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who bought to know Molina whereas she labored for Antonovich. “There was a number of challenges. It appeared like each time there was a difficulty, it was a relentless battle, however nobody did it higher than Gloria.”

“Typically she was improper, however more often than not she was proper,” stated Zev Yaroslavsky, who served alongside Molina on the Metropolis Council for 4 years within the Nineteen Eighties and 20 years on the Board of Supervisors. He nonetheless bundles up in a quilt she knitted for him when the 2 have been termed out in 2014. “And the rationale why so many have been aggravated by her was as a result of she held up a mirror to ourselves.”

That type made her a residing legend to the voters and volunteers who helped her win elections repeatedly.

As soon as, Yaroslavsky drove round his native Boyle Heights with a staffer and stopped at a former synagogue that had was a Latino evangelical church. The pastor approached the 2, and wasn’t impressed when Yaroslavsky launched himself as a supervisor. Then he talked about that one in every of his colleagues was Molina.

“And his face lit up,” Yaroslavsky stated. “County supervisor meant nothing to him, however Gloria Molina? That was the whole lot.”

Within the final weeks of her life, private and non-private entities that mirrored the breadth of her profession publicly honored the política.

Metro’s board of administrators voted to call a Gold Line station in East L.A. after Molina, who fought for years to make sure that the area’s light-rail system prolonged to the Eastside. The all-female Board of Supervisors — every sporting a clipped-on lock of purple hair in honor of the ladies’s predecessor’s signature style aptitude — introduced they’d rename downtown’s Grand Park to mirror Molina’s essential function in its creation. Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights christened its efficiency house the Gloria Molina Auditorium in honor of the frequent patron and donor to Latino arts throughout the Southland.

And the L.A. County Honest introduced that beginning this 12 months, the successful quilt in its annual Residence Arts contests would obtain the Gloria Molina Quilting Award, to commemorate a lifelong fanatic who utilized the craft’s expertise to her public service: a wise use of coloration, a methodical strategy, an expansive outlook and a thick pores and skin capable of climate the pricks that got here with the job as a result of she may dole them out even higher.


Gloria Molina was born in 1948 to Concepción and Leonardo Molina, a homemaker and development employee with roots within the city of Casa Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico. The household lived in a small home behind a mercadito that her godmother owned in Barrio Simons, a neighborhood in what’s now Montebello that stood subsequent to one of many greatest brickyards on the planet.

“Regardless that we have been poor, I used to be by no means at dwelling ever felt to be poor,” Molina stated in a 2017 interview for Cal State Fullerton’s Heart for Oral and Public Historical past. “And by no means informed I used to be poor. By no means informed that I used to be not going to have the ability to do what I wished to do.”

Because the oldest of 10 kids, Molina discovered herself negotiating from a younger age. She translated for her Spanish-speaking father, helped her mom increase her siblings and argued on behalf of them to her dad and mom as soon as they got here of age. One incident particularly hinted on the individual Gloria would develop into.

Someday, Concepción took her kids to a Lerner division retailer in downtown to purchase garments for the college 12 months. The household stood on the checkout counter for quarter-hour earlier than a pre-teen Gloria requested the shop supervisor why they weren’t being helped. The person made a crack about her Mexican mom having so many kids when he lastly attended to them. Concepción informed Gloria to not inform her father, however Gloria did. An enraged Leonardo went again to Lerner to sq. up the invoice, and the household by no means shopped there once more.

“The bias we noticed was in small methods,” stated Gracie Molina, Gloria’s sister, “however she would hold that in her thoughts and spine.”

The household moved to Pico Rivera when Gloria was in third grade, becoming a member of the 1000’s of Mexican Individuals who left the Eastside for L.A.’s middle-class suburbs. However in 1967, Leonardo suffered a piece damage that put him on incapacity for 2 years. Molina successfully grew to become the household breadwinner, working as a authorized secretary for a downtown agency whereas finding out style design at Rio Hondo Faculty, then East L.A. Faculty. On the latter faculty, she participated within the Chicano activism that was sweeping the American Southwest.

Molina volunteered on the close by Maravilla housing initiatives, the place the squalor that younger girls and their kids lived in shocked her. She skipped a historical past remaining examination to point out solidarity with the 1000’s of excessive schoolers throughout Eastside colleges who walked out for higher situations throughout the 1968 “blowouts.” She was additionally there on the 1970 Chicano Moratorium, a protest towards the Vietnam Conflict in East L.A. that ended with sheriff’s deputies brutally beating up attendees and the deaths of three individuals, together with L.A. Instances columnist Ruben Salazar.

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Bertha Molina, from left, Timmy Martinez, Gloria Molina, Purple Martinez and Julie Martinez throughout the Chicano Moratorium in Salazar Park, previously Laguna Park, in 1970.

(Ralph Arreola / Los Angeles County Library)

Nevertheless it was a film Molina noticed at East L.A. Faculty that ceaselessly modified her political outlook: “Salt of the Earth,” a 1954 movie a couple of real-life New Mexico zinc strike through which Latinas changed their jailed husbands on the picket traces. Their bravery resonated with Molina, who was already chafing on the sexism in a Chicano motion that claimed to be progressive.

“The fellows would simply sort of roll throughout us,” she stated in an interview with The Instances shortly earlier than her dying. “And as Chicanas, we didn’t assume that was applicable.”

Molina nonetheless assisted on the campaigns of Richard Alatorre and Artwork Torres, two Eastsiders who grew to become Meeting members in 1972 and 1973, respectively, and have become the architects of a political machine that dominated the area for many years. Torres employed her as his administrative assistant — the primary Latina to carry such a place within the California Legislature.

Shortly after, she grew to become the chair of the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional, a statewide grassroots community. It was in that function that Molina discovered herself sitting subsequent to a tearful Dolores Madrigal at a information convention in 1975 asserting a class-action lawsuit alleging that L.A. County-USC Medical Heart had coerced Mexican American girls into sterilizations.

Antonia Hernandez, who had simply graduated from UCLA’s legislation faculty, had requested Comisión Femenil simply weeks earlier than if it could possibly be the lead plaintiff.

“I needed to clarify to them that if we misplaced the case, we could possibly be liable to pay the defendant’s case. so the victims wouldn’t should incur any authorized prices in case they misplaced,” stated Hernandez, who just lately introduced her retirement as president of the California Neighborhood Basis. “My first impression of [Molina], then and now, is only a gutsy individual, with an actual sense of neighborhood obligation, and he or she rallied these of us” to signal on.

Because the sterilization case went via the courts — a federal decide in the end dominated towards the plaintiffs — Molina served as a marketing campaign supervisor or a fundraiser for Chicana candidates throughout California. In Los Angeles, Molina grew to become a bridge between the separated sisterhoods of the Westside, South L.A. and the Eastside.

“We thought of her the chief,” stated Rep. Maxine Waters, who met Molina when she was chief deputy to L.A. Councilmember David Cunningham Jr. and leaned on her help throughout Waters’ profitable 1976 Meeting race. “She was settled, she was cool. With out the lads, she organized the ladies.”

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Gloria Molina, left, sits subsequent to Dolores Madrigal at a information convention in 1975 asserting a class-action swimsuit towards Los Angeles County-USC Medical Heart that alleged medical doctors sterilized Mexican American girls with out their consent.

(Ben Olender / Los Angeles Instances)

Whereas Molina campaigned for Waters, she additionally headed Latino outreach in California for former President Carter. She joined his administration’s Workplace of Presidential Personnel, tasked with diversifying the ranks of 1000’s of fee seats. However the lack of Latinos in Washington, D.C., made Molina yearn for dwelling, so she took a job with the Division of Well being and Human Companies’ workplace in San Francisco, then grew to become the L.A.-based deputy for Meeting Speaker Willie Brown.

In 1982, her former boss Torres instructed she take his Meeting district seat since he wished to run for the state Senate. She went to hunt the blessing of Alatorre, who informed her to face down: He and different Eastside leaders had determined that the seat ought to go to his childhood pal Richard Polanco, whom Molina remembered as a teenage boxer hanging with the improper crowd again within the Maravilla housing initiatives.

Feeling betrayed, Molina nonetheless introduced her candidacy.

The primary-time candidate enlisted the community of ladies she had helped through the years as “lickers and stickers” — volunteers who phone-banked, walked precincts, despatched out mailers and counted for an estimated 70% of the contributions she obtained, together with a $5,000 test by Waters that was Molina’s first large donation.

She beat Polanco within the major by a 52%-48% margin, then simply received the overall election towards a Republican opponent. Molina’s election evening celebration was held at Stevens Steakhouse in Commerce, the restaurant the place the Eastside machine had met months earlier to decide on Polanco as their candidate.

“They have been accustomed to the function they performed: Massive chingones [badasses], they’re in cost,” Molina informed The Instances in 1993. “They didn’t need some pipsqueak like me coming in.”

It was a template for victory she would repeat.

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Gloria Molina, proven in 1982, throughout her profitable California Meeting marketing campaign.

(Los Angeles Instances)

In Sacramento, Molina instantly clashed with a macho world the place decorum and deal-making dominated. Throughout a funds debate between Waters and a Republican assemblywoman, Assemblymember Lou Papan cracked, “Mr. Speaker, may we hold the ladies from preventing on the ground?” Molina lower in and demanded he apologize to all girls. A recess was instantly known as, and colleagues informed Molina she ought to apologize to her senior colleague. She refused.

“He needed to take the implications of what he stated,” Molina stated in her Cal State Fullerton oral historical past. “You don’t simply blurt out these statements with none duty to them.”

Quickly, she would discover herself pitted towards state leaders on a far larger problem again dwelling.

The Legislature had handed a invoice that required the state to construct a jail in L.A. County earlier than some other jail may open. Gov. George Deukmejian’s workplace selected a location throughout the L.A. River from Boyle Heights and secured the backing of Mayor Tom Bradley.

The Eastside exploded in opposition. Father John Moretta, pastor at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights, first met her at a gathering on the jail’s proposed location.

“She was quick, however that didn’t cease her from being tall within the eyes of the individuals,” stated Moretta. “She was like a commander of the troops down under, and the individuals adopted her.”

Molina politicked in Sacramento and marched in Los Angeles. She and Torres labored to have the Meeting kill the plan on the finish of the legislative session in 1985. However Speaker Brown revived the plans a couple of months later after Molina defied him by supporting an Meeting candidate.

Quickly after, Deukmejian’s workplace known as her with a deal: Let the jail undergo, and the governor would signal Molina-authored payments that sought to stop highschool dropouts. She declined, regardless of pleas from workers members that the advantage of these payments outweighed any hurt the jail may create.

Deukmejian vetoed all of them. However the Eastside jail was by no means constructed.

Whereas the standoff continued, a U.S. Justice Division civil rights lawsuit pressured L.A. to redraw its council districts to make it simpler for one more Latino candidate to win on the Eastside. Molina returned to Alatorre and Torres, and requested if she may be a part of the previous on the Metropolis Council.

As soon as once more, Torres and Alatorre already had a candidate: L.A. Unified Faculty District trustee Larry Gonzalez.

As soon as once more, Molina went towards them.

She bought married throughout the marketing campaign, took a two-day honeymoon, then bought again to canvassing. Molina simply beat Gonzalez and two different candidates, turning into the primary Latina on L.A.’s Metropolis Council in 1987.

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Gloria Molina dances together with her mom, Concepción, after her Metropolis Council victory in 1987. She grew to become the primary Latina council member.

(Patrick Downs / Los Angeles Instances)

Molina had served in her new function only a 12 months and a half earlier than the Mexican American Authorized Protection and Training Fund filed a lawsuit that alleged L.A. County supervisors had gerrymandered districts in 1981 to make sure a Latino couldn’t be a part of their board. The lead lawyer was Hernandez, who befriended Molina because the unsuccessful sterilization lawsuit they pursued collectively a decade earlier.

This time, they’d win. The first Supervisorial District’s boundaries have been redrawn, and longtime Supervisor Peter F. Schabarum determined to not search reelection. Molina as soon as once more went to her Eastside elders. This time, she got here armed with the endorsements of Reps. Ed Roybal and Esteban Torres. However Alatorre and Torres as soon as once more refused to help her; Torres wished the seat as nicely.

The 2 positioned first and second within the major, then moved on to a bitter normal election. She grew to become the primary Latina on the board in 1991, and the primary Latino since Francisco Machado and Francisco Palomares served within the 1870s.

So many individuals attended her swearing-in ceremony that the gang spilled onto the sidewalk and heard by way of audio system Molina declare, “We should stay up for a time when an individual’s ethnic background or gender is not a historic footnote.”

The brand new supervisor joined throughout a fiscal disaster. She rapidly earned a popularity as somebody who demanded solutions from all ranges of the county’s departments and didn’t take care of niceties.

Alma Martinez, Molina’s longtime chief of workers who met her future boss as a highschool volunteer for the Carter presidential marketing campaign, remembered how Molina had staffers shadow fancy vehicles that drove into the Westlake neighborhood to purchase medication. Once they traced the license plates again to the dad and mom of USC college students, Molina despatched them a letter letting them know what their kids have been as much as. One other time, she printed out an inventory of probation officers who hadn’t labored shortly and known as every of them at dwelling, demanding they present up.

“We informed her, ‘You gotta cease doing that,’” Martinez stated. “She wouldn’t hear, particularly when she felt one thing was improper.”

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Gloria Molina, foreground, speaks as fellow Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Mike Antonovich, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Deane Dana look on throughout a 1995 information convention.

(Los Angeles Instances)

The Instances described her type of questioning at board conferences as “direct, abrasive, impolite and unrelenting.” She provided stern phrases in a ringing voice as she glared at whoever was on the dais together with her glasses both on the bridge of her nostril or on her head. One division head fainted after a Molina interrogation. One other one started referring to her as “sir.”

Her acolytes — who known as themselves “Molinistas” — started to populate L.A. politics. Mike Hernandez received a seat on the L.A. Metropolis Council in 1991. Xavier Becerra completed first within the 1992 race to interchange Roybal, the longtime Eastside consultant, in a marketing campaign that noticed Molina and Torres battle yet one more proxy conflict. The next 12 months, Antonio Villaraigosa — Molina’s consultant on the Metro board and the most effective man at her marriage ceremony — went to the Meeting.

“I used to be like her little brother,” stated Villaraigosa, who Molina shunned shortly after his win after she came upon he had cheated on his spouse however they patched issues up in time for his historic 2005 L.A. mayoral victory. “She beat me up like nobody else, however I knew it got here with the territory. She was powerful on all of us, however all of us liked her and have been loyal to her, and stayed together with her.”

Although Molina was an admitted taskmaster, staffers stayed together with her for years. She took lunch within the break room with them, and he or she invited her staff to her home each Christmas for items and do-it-yourself pork tamales.

Hypothesis about greater positions — mayor, congresswoman, governor, even U.S. senator — swirled as Molina started to imagine a nationwide profile. She grew to become shut with Invoice and Hillary Clinton and served as one of many vice chairs for Democratic Nationwide Conventions from 1996 via 2004. However the Board of Supervisors proved Molina’s remaining cease on her political journey.

Even a Democrat-majority board couldn’t assist Molina obtain all of her objectives. Repeated bids to extend the variety of supervisorial seats went nowhere. Her push for a rebuilt L.A. County-USC facility with 750 beds resulted in solely 600. The Gold Line growth to the Eastside went largely above floor regardless of her needs that it’s a subway, and she decried it as “substandard” as soon as it opened. A decision in 2008 to severely restrict avenue merchandising failed after a public outcry.

Victories have been extra frequent, on points large and small.

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Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina listens throughout a 2013 board assembly.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Instances)

Parks and neighborhood facilities opened from downtown to the San Gabriel Valley. She put aside tens of tens of millions of {dollars} in discretionary funds to assist create LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, arguing the town wanted a museum that informed its Latino historical past. Then there was the time in 2002 when the Board of Supervisors handed an ordinance that pressured companies caught overcharging prospects to publicly submit notices of their violations. It got here after Molina went to Kmart to purchase discounted lipstick solely to get rung up on the register for the common worth.

“We have been educated to all the time take into consideration [issues] from the context of our dad and mom,” stated Miguel Santana, a longtime Molina aide and former chief administrative officer for the Metropolis of Los Angeles who’s now the president of the Weingart Basis. “If it doesn’t make sense to our dad and mom, we have to repair it. And the opposite mantra was the federal government ought to deal with our neighborhood in the way in which you need your dad and mom to really feel.”

When she was termed out in 2014, solely three different supervisors — Roger Jessup, Kenneth Hahn and Antonovich — had served longer.

“This seat was only a good match,” she informed The Instances in 2009. “I really like what I do and I want I may keep right here ceaselessly, however it’s simply as nicely that I transfer on and discover one thing else, hopefully not elective workplace.”

That’s precisely what she did simply months earlier than she was termed out in 2014, when Molina introduced she was going to problem Eastside Councilmember Jose Huizar the next 12 months.

Followers liked the concept of Molina taking down yet one more Eastside politico. She lambasted his give attention to growing downtown on the expense of working-class neighborhoods, telling Huizar throughout a debate, “You’re so busy working with builders and speaking about density that you simply neglect in regards to the fundamental points.”

Her brawling type not drew the adulation of the previous. On election evening, Molina had a couple of dozen volunteers working the telephones at her marketing campaign workplace; Huizar had over 60. She pulled in solely 24% of the vote, whereas Huizar simply sailed to a 3rd time period.

She by no means ran for public workplace once more.

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Labor activist Dolores Huerta, from left, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina and supervisorial candidate Hilda Solis cheer throughout Solis’ 2014 election evening celebration in El Monte.

(David McNew / For The Instances)

Molina spent her retirement easing into her function as the lioness of L.A. politics. She grew to become a daily on panels or in documentaries that retold a number of the struggles that she had participated in — the Chicano Moratorium, the L.A. County-USC sterilization scandal, the battle towards Proposition 187, even Fernando Valenzuela’s historic 1981 rookie 12 months — for a brand new technology.

Her lifelong love of quilting led Molina to co-found the East Los Angeles Stitchers, a bunch of Latinas who held month-to-month conferences and have vowed to finish the 100-plus quilts Molina couldn’t end.

She additionally went on extra outings and holidays with a bunch of associates Molina known as “Las Ladies,” girls who had weathered their very own skilled battles and located solace amongst each other for many years.

Monica Lozano, former writer of her household’s newspaper, La Opinión, first met Molina throughout the Comisión Mexicana Femenil Nacional days. “You stroll right into a room with these highly effective girls speaking about points, and also you assume, ‘I belong,’” stated the previous president of the Faculty Futures Basis. “And that’s what Gloria created even then.”

Las Ladies got here from the world over to go to Molina close to the tip of her life. “Once we bought collectively, Gloria stated, ‘¡Aquí vienen mis comadres!’ [Here come my girlfriends!],” Lozano stated. They checked out images of their lives collectively. “And Gloria smiled and checked out all of us and stated, ‘Take a look at these highly effective Chicanas.’”

Molina is survived by her husband, Ron Martinez; daughter, Valentina Martinez; grandson, Santiago; and siblings Gracie Molina, Irma Molina, Domingo Molina, Bertha Molina Mejia, Mario Molina, Sergio Molina, Danny Molina, Olga Molina Palacios, and Lisa Molina Banuelos. There will probably be a public celebration of her life at LA Plaza at a forthcoming date.

Even after leaving elected workplace, Molina insisted that Latino politicians had a particular responsibility to the neighborhood that cast them.

“To dismiss it and assume, ‘Oh, , I’m simply right here, I’ve simply bought elected and I can tackle it, go-along-to-get-along, and I don’t should be that champion.’ You’re improper!” she informed Cal State Fullerton in 2017. “It’s your job, it’s your responsibility, it’s your duty.”


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