Written by Chris Fontana
Roberto Maestas was co-founder and Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza and was a fierce advocate for social justice—creating a coalition of people who all understood that it was in their collective best interest to advocate on behalf of others. He did this while he maintained his sense of humor.
Don Roberto Maestas: You warmly welcomed me into your office in 2008 when Global Visionaries wanted to rent a space in El Centro de la Raza—the building you and your comadres and compadres occupied to create a center for all people. You regaled me with miraculous yet true stories illustrating the triumph of the human spirit. You befriended the Global Visionaries staff and, in particular, you ensured our Guatemalan staff was well taken care of. You showed up at our GV events and inspired us with your wit, your vision and your steadfast dedication to the dignity of all human beings. You made us laugh every week as you “sneaked” in our office to fill your mug from our coffee for a pick-me-up. It was you who picked us up every day.
Roberto fought so many significant battles through his life on behalf of others—I wanted to highlight this one. What follows is an excerpt from Seattle Times obiturary by columnist, Jerry Large:
“I am Roberto”
[Larry] Gossett said he and Mr. Maestas first met when Gossett was a student at the University of Washington and organized about 150 black students to protest a decision by the principal at Franklin High to kick two black girls out of school because they wore their hair unstraightened. That was March 1968. Teachers and staff left the school when the students occupied the principal’s office. Mr. Maestas was the only teacher who stayed to hear their concerns.
“The righteousness of their cause had such an impact on him that the next morning he went into the teachers’ lounge and said, ‘My name is no longer Robert or Bob,’ ” Gossett said, “He said ‘I am Roberto,’ rolling those Rs as only he could do. That’s when he became an activist.”
And since then, Gossett said, “No one has been more on the front lines of every significant movement for social change in the Northwest than Roberto.”
Jerry Large wrote a beautiful obituary and I invite you to ready it in its entirety: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012965397_maestasobit23m.html
Hear Roberto in his own words:
Don Roberto: thank you for welcoming us into your beautiful community center. We will always love and be indebted to you and we will advocate for social justice on behalf of those who who most need our friendship and energy.