Obituary: Raul Bejarano Loya

April 10, 2015


By Patricia Loya

Raul Bejarano Loya, beloved husband, father, educator and activist, died peacefully on April 1st, 2015, in the SF Bay Area.

He began as a copper miner in Miami, AZ; was the first in his family to go to college; got his M.Ed. from NAU; and married his love, Servita, a student at NAU and waitress in her family’s La Casita Cafe. Raul had planned to live on a can of tuna per day, that is, until he heard about the La Casita Special! Servita’s grandmother, “Kima,” offered students like Raul a feast for just one dime. Without her, many Latino students wouldn’t have graduated.

“Muchos lloran cuando sufren injusticias; deberian llorar por no pelear las injusticias.”
Ray Rodriguez, educators, activists and co-founder of MAS.

Raul and Servita taught in Navajo and Apache reservations where they had their 1st daughter, Anamaria. In 1965 they moved to the Coachella Valley and became dedicated educators and pillars in the farmworker cause. Raul met with elected officials and the press to expose injustices against farmworkers. Some ignored him, others laughed, but most were content with the status quo. So, Raul with Alfredo Fuller and Ray Rodriguez, started their own newspaper, IDEAL, in a small house in Indio, the archives of which are kept at UC Berkeley as a meaningful part of California history.

“As a former student, Raul pulled us (students) into the classroom and pushed us to go to college. He instilled in his students pride and a sense of responsibility so that we could assist those who needed a helping hand. His lessons were not limited to the classroom, with his social activism he also taught by example.”
Enrique Martinez, a former student

In 1969, Raul was falsely imprisoned for clapping in unison to drown out Rep. Tunney, who opposed the boycott of non-union grapes. Uncertain if he’d lose his teaching credentials, Raul entered The Banning Road Camp prison on June 12th 1969, two days after his 2nd daughter, Patricia, was born. Eventually, the Supreme Court of California overturned the sentence. Raul and co-defendents, T. Kay, J. Caswell and A. Figueroa, became known as “The California Four” and the “unity clap” became a hallmark of the Chicano movement.

During all of this, the Loyas continued to teach and eventually had their third daughter, Katherine. The three girls reflected their love of life, bringing Servita and Raul boundless joy and pride.

The Loyas faced constant pressure to stop their political activities, including death threats, “We know where your daughters wait for the bus.” But they stood up for what was right in the face of harsh intimidation. Their work is memorialized in many books, including Forty Acres by Mark Day.

“Raul Loya as a tireless fighter and advocate for farmworkers, youth, and all the oppressed people of the Coachella Valley. He also paid a heavy price by going to prison, based on his First Amendment right to free speech, while protesting injustices.

“If there is any measure of social justice and equal representation now in the Coachella Valley, it is because of the dedication and pioneer efforts of Raul Loya, James Caswell, Alfredo Figueroa, and others like them.”
Mark Day, Author

Raul served with MAPA working with activists like Mike Figueroa; was an originating member of the Coachella Valley Federation of Teachers; and co-founded the Mexican American Scholarships, benefiting 100’s of students across the valley.

Raul was loved by his students and wanted to become a Principal. Routinely denied promotions and noting few Latinos in higher roles, Raul hired Atty Louis Flores to sue the Desert Sands Unified School District. Twelve years into the suit, Raul finally became a Dean and later a Principal, paving the way for future Latino educators.

As Principal, Raul moved Indio’s continuation high school from trailers to its own campus and transformed it into an award-winning school, named Amistad. He got author Ray Bradbury to adopt Amistad; Raiders Coach Tom Flores to speak at commencement; and a donated printing press, which led to Inklings, a student poetry booklet, that won awards year after year.

Raul remained friends with the Figueroa’s, Al Fuller, Ray Rodriguez, Mark Day and Louis Flores until his dying day. He also loved his dearly departed friends Mike Barta and Lalo Guererro.

The Loya’s valued education and their girls became alumni at UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, Notre Dame, Boalt, Loma Linda, Stanford and Harvard. They describe their Dad as a softy. He taught them to swim, bike, fly kites, fish and play poker. Once he was chased by a moose in Yellowstone and photographed each moment of the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. He loved saguaros, geysers, redwoods, Muhammad Ali, his Kachina collection, Fiddler on the Roof and, most importantly, his family.

Raul is dearly missed by his wife Servita of 51 years; daughters Anamaria, Patricia and Katherine; “sons” Chris, Carlos and Shaun; grandchildren Christina, Aidan, Raul and Mateo; brothers Gene and Rudy Arellano and families; and devoted niece Diane Perry and family.

We love you. You are in our hearts forever.

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