Roberto Maestas, a founder of Beacon Hill’s El Centro de la Raza who led that non-profit organization until he retired last year, passed away this morning of lung cancer at the age of 72.
Mayor McGinn has ordered that city flags be lowered to half-staff today in honor of Maestas.
A former Spanish teacher at Franklin High School, Maestas was among the activists involved in the peaceful occupation of the then-empty Beacon Hill Elementary School building on 16th Avenue South in 1972. After three wintery months in the run-down building, the group negotiated an agreement with the City to lease the building for $1 per year, and the El Centro organization has been there ever since. Maestas led the organization as executive director until he stepped down in 2009.
The Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project at the University of Washington has this page about Maestas, including a biography and several video interviews.
Here is a story from last year about the Four Amigos: Maestas, the late Bernie Whitebear, Larry Gossett, and Bob Santos, who as activists and friends worked together to make Seattle a more just place.
Update: Details of a memorial celebration for Mr. Maestas are in the comments.