Luis Natividad: Decades of Struggle

April 21, 2017

By Mario A. Cortez

Luis Natividad

The evolution of our communities can be traced to people who have long been pushing for improvements and positive change.

Luis Natividad is one of these community champions. Over the years, “Louie” has been active in the political and activist fronts to bring resources to underprivileged neighborhoods.

But despite being a community leader for more than 50 years, Natividad was at one point involved in gang activity.

“You see, back in the day in National City there were always territorial disputes,” Natividad said. “When you’re young and have the energy for it, you can do stupid things like get into fights for crossing the street in the wrong part of town.”

Natividad began to change his conduct after learning about Chicano ideology and the struggle for the self determination of our communities.

“One day a gentleman from Los Angeles came here to talk about the Chicano movement,” Natividad recalled. “In that lecture he showed us how there were no Latino teachers in schools and universities. There also weren’t any Latino or Mexican police officers and elected officials.”

After seeing the lack of representation of people from his same background, Natividad began to see more things that were amiss in his community. He saw how the services that were already present in other neighborhoods, such as paving and access to clinics, had not yet reached his community.

“Those of us in the Chicano movement eventually saw that the only way we could access resources was through unity and organizing,” Natividad said.

Soon after becoming involved in activism, Natividad became involved with the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), where he found a platform to take community and political action.

“With MAPA we started working in the neighborhood; starting with keeping young people out of trouble. Then we went moved on to registering raza to vote and asking for services in city neighborhoods.”

In 1969, boosted by members of his neighborhood and MAPA, Natividad ran for a position as a Member of National City’s City Council.

“Raza was quite militant at the time, the we were marching and criticizing everything. The rest of the city saw us as agitators so it was an uphill battle,” said Natividad.

Despite the perception that National City voters had about him, Natividad and his team went out to the community to meet constituents door to door and approaching those who had doubts about him.

“When they revealed the results of the election I found out I lost by 69 votes. A Mexican almost won a local post, which was something unheard of in the 60s”.

Not minding the narrow loss, Natividad kept his course as a leader. He helped community members to reorganize to help those with drug problems and was elected as director of the Chicano Federation, post which he held for three years.

After leaving the Chicano Federation, Natividad worked in various community organizations. Some of the nonprofits Natividad has been involved with are the Jacobs Family Foundation, the Community Action Council, the Binational Health Council Emergency Medical Committee, Community Advisory Committee on Gang, Alcohol, and Substance Use Prevention for Sweetwater Union High School District, the Latino/Latina Indigenous Peoples Unity Coalition, Operation Warm Foundation Heart, the San Diego Mariachi Festival, and the San Diego Food Bank as a founding member.

In the political stage, Natividad was a member of former County Supervisor Jim Bates’ staff and has been involved in the South County Economic Development Council and their board, the National City Traffic and Safety Commission, and the United States Census Bureau. It is also worth noting that in 1977 and in 2002 Natividad won his electoral runs for National City’s City Council.

Despite all the work he has done over the years, Natividad has fond memories of an event in 1970. One day in April of that year, heavy construction machinery arrived at the site where a community park was to be built in Logan Heights.

Mario Solis, a college student, noticed the construction equipment and alerted the community and fellow students. The community’s response was immediate. These events led to the take over of what today is now Chicano Park.

Luis Natividad at 1999’s Chicano Park Day ceremony (Photo/ “Carlos”)

“The most beautiful thing about the park takeover is that for the first time all of the raza from of all neighborhoods came together for a cause. For the first time, regardless of what hood or what city you lived in, all raza was able to unite. Is a very beautiful memory,” Natividad said.

With that memory in mind, Natividad looks to send a message of unity to the community.

“We now live in an era where everything we have done as raza, be it as Chicanos, as Mexicans, or as Latinos, has seen setbacks,” says Natividad. “I know it will be impossible for everyone to think the exact same way, but we all want the same things for our communities and our families. If we can all come together once more, we can continue to improve our communities again,” Natividad closed.

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