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Roberto Maestas, Seattle leader


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http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/l ... it23m.html

By Jerry Large

Seattle Times staff columnist

Roberto Maestas, a founder of El Centro de La Raza and a leading advocate for social justice, died of lung cancer Wednesday morning at University of Washington Medical Center. He was 72.

A former Spanish teacher at Franklin High School, Mr. Maestas demonstrated for Indian fishing rights, participated in the fight to open up construction jobs to black workers and supported farm workers, among many other movements and causes.

His nephew, Miguel Maestas, said Mr. Maestas was, "an incredibly successful leader within the Latino community and helped to build movements and bridges locally, nationally and internationally."

Through it all, Mr. Maestas maintained a sense of humor and perspective.

"The power of his personality lit up any room," said his friend Larry Gossett, a King County Councilmember.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn ordered city flags lowered to half-staff Wednesday in memory of Mr. Maestas.

Mr. Maestas was part of a coalition of leaders who helped change the face of Seattle beginning in the 1970s. Mr. Maestas was the first to suggest formalizing cooperation among the various groups working on social justice issues, said Gossett.

The leaders of those groups became known as the Four Amigos — along with Gossett and Mr. Maestas, they included the late Indian leader Bernie Whitebear and Bob Santos, a prominent voice in the Asian-American community.

Mr. Maestas, who came to Seattle from his native New Mexico, served as director of El Centro for 36 years until he stepped aside in June of last year.

In a statement, McGinn said Mr. Maestas "often spoke of building a 'beloved community' through nonviolence, community engagement and an empowered citizenry."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described the beloved community as a world where poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated, a world made possible by the transformative power of nonviolence to turn opponents into friends.

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