Spevak: A quiet hero is finally honored

By John SpevakMarch 14, 2013 

The United States has been celebrating events and people that have advanced equality and justice, including the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks.

Next week, another person who believed in those principles will be honored. Angelita Rivera, a Los Banos resident who died in December, was an ongoing patron of Lectura para Niños, the Saturday morning bilingual storytime at the Los Banos public library.

She understood the importance of reading for children and wanted to give every child the opportunity. She also understood that reading is a key to success in so many careers and professions.

Angelita's memory will be honored at the Los Banos library on March 23 from 10 to 11 a.m. by the Cesar Chavez Committee.

The event is free and open to the public and will feature poetry and story reading and folklorico dancing, during the regular time Lectura para Niños takes place each Saturday.

I did not know Angelita, but I learned a great deal about her from talking with a member of the Chavez Committee.

Angelita and her family were very poor, but poverty did not stop her from trying to help children and the community through the Cesar Chavez Committee.

Despite experiencing hunger and utility disconnections, she continued her good works. She would say, "If we do not sacrifice like Cesar, how can we expect others to do so?"

Besides supporting Lectura para Niños, Angelita purchased books for the local library and donated money for library book purchases.

Her generosity extended to special events. She funded, for example, the visits to the library of two highly respected authors, Amparo Cisneros and Francisco Alarcon, and a mariachi concert to raise funds to help battered women.

Angelita also supported education. Of the seven $500 Cesar Chavez scholarships given to students at the local campus of Merced College, Angelita funded five of them. In addition, she funded the Cesar Chavez Youth Leadership Conference and Peace Prize essay competition.

Angelita gave her last coin to ideals she believed in, and now the Cesar Chavez committee is honoring her memory.

Angelita was also a religious woman, drawing strength and guidance from the Bible. Among her favorite passages were Psalm 121 ("I lift up my eyes to the hills"), Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd"), Matthew 5 ("Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice") and James 2:17 ("Faith, if not accompanied by action, is dead").

Angelita had great respect for all people and a deep love for family and children. Born in Lindsay, she was proud of her Mexican heritage.

In her concern for equality, I was told, Angelita was saddened to see how many Mexican Americans she believed were treated as second class in a city where they have contributed so much in all departments, including public safety, as employees and volunteers.

She had hoped that Los Banos would by now have a Mexican American city department head, superintendent of schools, high school principal, or even assistant principal.

Angelita felt that no one should accept or internalize the notion that he or she or was a second-class person. She believed in the importance of justice for all and in the dignity of every person.

She was what I would call a "quiet hero," a person who does a great deal for her community without calling any attention to herself. Every so often, however, quiet heroes need to be acknowledged, as she will be.

I am looking forward to the celebration of Angelita Rivera and her life and values, and trust that many will attend.

It will be an opportunity to celebrate the memory of good person and to enjoy the beauty of poetry, music and dancing.

On another note: On March 21 the regular blood drive at the local LDS Church on Center Street will be held from 3 to 6:30 p.m. The need is great.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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