Gloria Molina, a trailblazing politician who made history as the first Latina elected to the State Assembly, Los Angeles City Council and County Board of Supervisors, said Tuesday she was suffering from end-stage cancer.
In a Facebook post, Molina, 74, wrote that the cancer, which she says she has lived with for three years, is “very aggressive”. She said she was being treated at City of Hope, a cancer center, and said she felt lucky to have lived a “long, fulfilling and beautiful life”.
“I am truly grateful for everyone in my life and proud of my family, my career, mi gente and the work we have done on behalf of our community,” Molina wrote in the post, adding that she has a daughter and a grandchild, with another on the way. “I have an incredible and caring family, wonderful friends and have worked with committed colleagues and a loyal team.”
Molina spent 23 years on the Board of Supervisors, where she represented the 1st District from 1991 to 2014. The district stretched from Koreatown, Pico-Union and East Los Angeles to Pomona and included much of the Valley of San Gabriel.
Molina’s friends and former colleagues called her a fighter, determined to bring more people who looked like her into the predominantly white and male halls of California politics.
“Gloria is a trailblazer,” said Antonia Hernandez, longtime president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Gloria was one of the first women to open doors for a whole bunch of other Latina women – not just in Los Angeles, but in California.”
Hernandez, who as a young lawyer met Molina in 1974, said Molina repeatedly urged Latinas to work at all levels of government. She said Molina was the one who urged her to go to Washington, DC, and work for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
“She was always calling. She always said there was an opportunity here,” Hernandez recalled Tuesday. “She really pushed a lot of people into public service and politics.”
Miguel Santana, chief executive of the Weingart Foundation, said he was inspired by Molina in high school and worked for her for 13 years when she was a supervisor. He said Molina, whom he now considers a mentor and close friend, has always served on the board as a tireless advocate for women and Latinas.
“She was always a militant in her way of governing,” Santana recalls. “She was ready to undertake any just cause.”
Molina began her political life in the 1970s as a Chicano activist and advocate for Mexican-American women who were involuntarily sterilized at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Years later, she fought for the hospital’s replacement after an earthquake, accusing white overseers of racism after saying they wanted to see it rebuilt with a smaller footprint.
“It’s sad for me as someone who loves her and knows her to know that she is transitioning in her life,” Santana said. “But I also know that she is incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to fight on behalf of her community.”
Colleagues said she left an indelible mark on Los Angeles County, especially in East Los Angeles. As a state legislator, Molina was known for mobilizing her constituents to prevent the opening of a state prison in a predominantly Latino part of her district that had been blighted by freeways and other projects. unwanted.
She is also recognized as a major force behind the creation of Grand Park, which spans three blocks between City Hall and the Music Center.
Molina pushed city and county officials to create a new park in downtown Los Angeles as part of the Grand Avenue redevelopment project, which brought two skyscrapers to a site across from the Walt Disney Concert Lobby. She also ensured that Grand Park was built before the towers were built.
Supervisor Hilda Solis, who succeeded Molina on the board, said she would introduce a motion next week to name Grand Park after Molina.
“Seeing her break through those glass ceilings inspired me,” Solis, who was the first Latina elected to the state Senate, said in a statement. “I remember dreaming of one day serving our community like she did, with passion.”
Toward the end of her term on the board of overseers, she urged voters to defeat Sheriff Lee Baca, who was running for a fifth term at the time, saying he had presided over “an extraordinary cascade of scandals that revealed the sorry state of the department and the prisons it runs.
A year later, she launched her own campaign to return to the city council, but was defeated by then-council member Jose Huizar.
Times writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.