Roberto Maestas, El Centro founder, dies

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.

The Seattle Times (BHB news partners) posted an obituary here. More obits at KIRO TV, Seattle P-I, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger.

Update: Details of a memorial celebration for Mr. Maestas are in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Roberto Maestas, El Centro founder, dies”

  1. Via Craig Thompson on the mailing lists:

    For those of you who knew Roberto and want to pay last respects, here are the arrangements:

    A public viewing will be held at El Centro de la Raza, 2524-16th Avenue South, on Beacon Hill in Seattle, on Tuesday, September 28, 1:00 pm-8:00 pm.

    A memorial celebration will be held at El Centro on Wednesday, September 29, 4:00-6:00 pm, followed by a reception from 6:00-8:00 pm.

    In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution in Roberto’s name to El Centro de la Raza. Funds will be used to establish a college fund for needy Latino students.

    Thanks to Liz who sent the heart of this message along.


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