In the early 1960s, a wave of people from Mexico migrated to Sonoma County, driven by the promise of work in the thriving prune and apple orchards, as well picking green beans, pears, peaches, strawberries, and grapes during the harvest season. This community of Spanish-speaking families quickly established roots in the area and grew in numbers.
In November 1965, a group of Latino leaders met with a shared vision to establish an organization for their community. The group, including Monsignor Jerry Cox, George Ortiz, David Basurto, Daniel Novella, Refugio de la Torre, Rafael Morales, Francisco Gonzales and Mrs. Consuelo Godoy, formed "Latinos Unidos del Condado de Sonoma, Inc."
Board of Directors created
As the community continued to grow and flourish, interest in the new organization increased. In April 1966, the first Board of Directors was elected at a community meeting held at the Sebastopol Grange Hall. The board's responsibility was to conduct monthly meetings and an annual membership meeting. The annual meeting would include the election of officers and a status report from the board.
Education established early as cornerstone initiative
In 1966, Monsignor Gerald F. Cox established the Latinos Unidos Scholarship Fund with an initial donation of $500. The aim of the fund was to recognize the importance of higher education and to provide financial assistance to students from the Latino community. The first five recipients of the scholarship were Jose Luis Ramirez, Evelia Caballero, Maria Garcia, Jose Becerra, and Cristina Lopez, who each received $100 scholarships to support their continuing education. Since then, the Latinos Unidos Scholarship Fund has continued to provide scholarships to students pursuing higher education, helping to increase access and opportunities for the Latino community.
Inaugural heritage and culture celebration
In September 1966, the first-ever celebration of Mexican Independence was held in Santa Rosa Plaza, bringing the community together to honor their heritage and culture. The festivities were capped off by a gala dance at the Villa Chanticleer in Healdsburg, where Miss Luz Maria Fernandez was crowned as the Independence Day Queen.
Our impact continues through today
The founding of Latinos Unidos del Condado de Sonoma was a defining moment for the Latino community in Sonoma County. The organization provided a voice and support system for the growing population, promoting culture, traditions, and needs. Today, our organization remains an important part of the community, providing support and advocacy for its members, and preserving its rich cultural heritage for future generations.