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R.I.P., Señor Gutierrez

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A pioneer of the Arizona Civil Rights Movement passed away on September 1 at the age of 80. 

In the 1960s, Gutierrez was the director of the Migrant Opportunity Program, which fought for better conditions in field sanitation, as well as for protections against child labor and toxic pesticides. Inspired by César Chávez, he organized farm workers in Tolleson in 1968 and, along with Carolina Rosales and Mel Hewey, was a cofounder of the Arizona Farm Workers Organizing Committee. 

“We will always remember Gustavo’s sacrifices and hard work for the farm workers of Arizona,” Cesar Chavez Foundation president, Paul F. Chavez, said in a commemoration last month, “and his lifetime of community activism on behalf of Latino, labor and civil rights.” 

Gutierrez was also a founding member of Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC), which has since become one of the largest Hispanic community development organizations in the country. When the organization took off, Gutierrez launched the AFL-CIO Labor Union 383, and later served on the council of Tonatierra, a community organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of indigenous traditions. 

“Tata was a leader like we’ll never see again,” says Pertacio Silva, a friend of Gutierrez’s who ran with him in the Peace and Dignity Journeys, an intercontinental prayer run that Gutierrez founded in 1992 and is held every four years. Gutierrez died, ironically, from injuries sustained in an accident while participating in one of those Peace and Dignity Journeys in northern Arizona. “He served the needs of our community and passionately fought for the recognition of indigenous peoples until his last breath,” said José “Casper” Habre, a longtime CPLC board member. Que en paz descanse.

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