By Geneva Gamez
In celebration of International Women’s Day, a group of over a hundred guests gathered at the Centro Cultural de la Raza to also honor and celebrate the long lived Gracia Molina de Pick, who celebrated her 75th birthday last Tuesday. Food, music, poetry, and baile folklorico were among the highlights of the evening.
To add to the festivities, proclamations by Susan Davis and Lt. Governer Cruz Bustamante were delivered, and a touching speech by Viejas Chairman, Anthony Pico, congratulating Molina on her birthday and extensive list of accomplishments.
Molina was born and raised in Mexico City in 1930 where she began her first fight ever as a female activist, demanding for women’s right to vote. “At that time women had no rights other than to get married” she remarks. Ironically, Mexican women won their right to vote in 1957, the year Molina moved to San Diego, California, “so I never got to vote in Mexico” she laughed, “but I’m still proud of the accomplishment.”
Molina who recently returned from conferences with the U.N. in New York, has fought for women’s equal rights, the indigenous people, labor and immigrants, and has served as patron for the arts and a mentor and educator to hundreds of leaders. “I began fighting for Chicano rights, even before Chicanos knew they were Chicanos” she said smiling.
The cumpleanera’s first job in the U.S. was as a mentor and educator to students of a school in National City, where seventy percent of them were Hispanic and undereducated. Because of the language barrier, many students were held back or simply categorized as mentally retarded. Molina immediately understood the reasoning behind that: so long as these children continued in school, whether actually being taught or not, the flow of financial aid kept coming in never, really being applied to the betterment of these students’ education. Molina petitioned all parents to unite, fundraise, and help their children excel in school and the activities they were deprived from participating in.
Among other schools Molina attended and taught since then are San Diego State University, Mesa College, where she created the Chicano studies program, and UCSD, where she became founder faculty for the 3rd college.
Molina’s long list of battles has showed no limits, and although women’s rights occupies a large portion of that list and continues to concern the gracious seventy-five year old, she is very much involved with other issues such as the environment; in fact, during the reception -among other topics discussed, water shortage seemed to be a highlight of her many preoccupations. Molina stated that water is more expensive than petroleum right now, “…this should tell you where we’re headed,” she added.
Molina’s accomplishments have not happened over night, it’s been a long struggle of odds and ends that never seemed would ever untie the knot, however, Molina being her small self carrying an enormous heart chose to be an optimist, never giving up, and knowing in her heart, that one day it would all be worth it. Her fight doesn’t end here though, she says, “on with the fight, we have a long way to go.”