Sadly this week’s column is about my recently departed friend and union activist Jaime Martinez. Alongside Jaime, I have marched with him on picket lines on SW Military Drive as well as the annual Cesar E. Chavez March for 20 years. He passed away from a long battle with cancer July 16th. He was two weeks older than me.
As we all know, Jaime is the one who, for many years, spear headed the push to get City Council to rename a local street in Cesar E. Chavez’s memory. When all was said and done, that particular Council listened to him and voted to rename Durango Boulevard, in memory of Chavez, the “Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard.” Si Se Puede!
Unlike most of the other Hispanic icons I have known and written about for La Prensa, I met him through a friend with whom I worked with at McCollum High School as a hall monitor. My buddy Pete Munoz grew up with Jaime and even played in a band with him back in the day. Back in the early 90s Pete talked about Jaime all the time. Eventually we met and became friends as well.
A man of the people, concerned with civil rights, Jaime was obviously a very close friend of Cesar E. Chavez whom I have written about as well. They worked together in the movement for many years. In 1982 I interviewed Jaime’s friend (well before I knew Jaime) for KENS 5 when he was here for a protest. I can see why Jaime and Cesar were friends with the same purpose and mission in life to speak for those who were unable to speak for themselves. After Chavez passed, Jaime continued throughout the rest of his life to speak out when others didn’t always step up to the plate.
As one who taught for a number of years in the Southside community of predominately Hispanics to include McCollum High School for nine years and Summer School at Harlandale High School, I could see first-hand how these two icons impacted the community.
One time I fondly recall walking a protest line with Jaime in a boycott of local grocery stores, selling produce. That produce was picked by low paid migrants in California that were forced to live in substandard conditions as well.
I had my sign which I held up in front of me. I was a little nervous since my school was down the street (McCollum) and I was worried some of my students would see me and talk about it at school and possibly get me in trouble.
Jaime told me, “Lower your sign so people can see who you are.” Timidly I lowered my sign and within 5 seconds I heard a voice from a passing car yell, “Mr. Walker what are you doing?” Embarrassed for the moment I told her what I was doing. She yelled, “Si Se Puede!” Relieved I continued to picket. Sure enough Monday morning everyone in the school heard that I had walked the picket line with Jaime Martinez and other protesters.
Over the years I have participated in the Cesar E. Chavez March with my friend Jaime, including this past year. As a photo blogger I have captured the march in photos for years.
I have valued my friendship with Jaime Martinez. At his viewing at Porter Loring on 1604, a large crowd of friends, supporters and family paid their last respects to the man we knew and loved. He made a difference in my life as well as thousands of others. To my departed friend Jaime Martinez, I say, Si Se Puede!
Anyway, as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Journalist and Justice of the Peace