Raquel Zamora: Modern Day Adelita in a Battle for the Soul of L.A. City Council District 14
Editorial by Abel M. Salas
Like María Cabildo, the East Side community advocate, visionary affordable housing developer and neighborhood non-profit agency leader whose intelligence and integrity she openly admires, Raquel Zamora is a dyed-in-the-wool, indisputable daughter of Boyle Heights.
In keeping with this more or less subjective—but no less legitimate—assertion, it stands to reason that Zamora, a child and grandchild of immigrants, is profoundly familiar with the definition of daughterhood traditionally favored by her forebears. While we stop short of building a case for the amusing possibility that the principles underlying the character and conduct her paternal grandfather would have equated with an ideal, or model daughter were genetically encoded in her DNA, it is fair to say Zamora has aspired to that standard since even before she entered preschool at San Antonio de Padua Academy.
The sincerity of soft spoken yet resolute change agents such Zamora and Ms. Cabildo before her—single mothers who regard community-building as part of a strategy to improve the quality of life for those among us with the least access to resources and opportunity—is undeniable. When considered as the direct result of the context in which they came to understand the meaning of “daughterhood,” that empathy and compassion are easier to grasp. Simply put, Zamora and Cabildo came of age in homes where “daughterhood” was interchangeably synonymous shorthand for “dutiful” and “loving,” and where the capacity to express both traits unselfishly and genuinely at once was highly prized.
The product of a family with roots in Boyle Heights dating back more than half a century, Zamora seems to have been born with an innate and endless measure of those two characteristics. Her eager willingness to work every day after school and on weekends alongside her grandfather in the family-owned Boyle Heights restaurant from the age of seven is a clear indication. But it doesn’t take long to realize that duty and love have guided her most important life decisions since then. From the pursuit of a degree in education and work as a classroom teacher then a return to college for a masters’ to an impressive career that includes certification as a mental health therapist, advanced case management for the foster care system and a role as a proven educator, as well as where to send her daughter Valentina to preschool, her choices have all had the welfare and well-being of the most vulnerable in our communities at heart.
“I ended up putting her in San Antonio de Padua, which is where my mom sent me,” she says. “It’s right here around the corner from the restaurant.”
In the first part of 2019, Zamora reached another decision, one that now has her at the epicenter of a swelling grass-roots campaign for the District 14 Los Angeles City Council seat held currently by José Huizar, who steps down this June, when he terms out. According to Councilmember Dist. 1 Gil Cedillo, Zamora is the “the only organic candidate in the race.” He indirectly references her strong ties to the neighborhood.
“My family has been making carnitas and chicharrones for six generations,” says Zamora. This year, she adds, the Zamora Bros. Boyle Heights location, established on Brooklyn Ave. in 1970 by her father and grandfather, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. A newer location in East L.A. suffered fire damage several years ago and will reopen later this year. Her father and grandfather, Zamora recounts, are both descended from a well-known line of Guanajuato, Mexico carniceros (meat-cutters) also renowned for their unique recipe for Guanajuato-style stewed pork (carnitas), which her grandfather introduced to Los Angeles aficionados of Mexican cuisine when he and his son opened the modest eatery which remains a go-to staple for deep fried pork rinds and pozole.
Zamora is running for City Council because she cares about the many issues that concern distinct and diverse neighborhood communities district-wide.. She is not a career politician, and she isn’t running because the District 14 seat is a de facto springboard to higher political office. She has specific and smart ideas about how to address displacement, homelessness and unsafe streets. She challenged the leading candidates to sign an agreement she herself had committed to honoring, a commitment to serving out the full City Council term if successful at winning the election. Tellingly, the candidate often discussed as the front-runner, refused to make such a vow.
We are in the middle of great upheavals at many levels. Zamora promises stability and a sincere effort to unify and rally the diverse District 14 community around issues that affect everyone. She is not a college drop-out who sees public service as a short cut to success and notoriety and who has been hand-picked by an entrenched system of political patronage that hedges its bets on those who can presumably leverage large amounts of campaign funding rather than those who are interested in meaningful dialogue and permanent relationships with constituents.
She does not have the stage polish or sophisticated social skills or expensive training as a public speaker whose vocabulary and practiced gestures are calculated to win friends and influence people because she is real. Politics at every level across this country increasingly resemble horse trader markets. Raquel Zamora was an intuitive healer and compassionate human being long before her decision to seek an elected office through which she hopes to directly address the issues she herself has faced as a lifelong District 14 stakeholder. She is not running to represent Boyle Heights. She understands the subtle but important distinctions around the range of concerns voters have in Downtown L.A., El Sereno, Eagle Rock as well as Boyle Heights.
District 14 voters have a clear choice. Let it be guided, as Zamora’s decisions have always been, by duty and love above all. A vote for Raquel Zamora will help ensure a run-off spot for her against a front-runner, and we are sure that a one-on-one battle for the soul of Boyle Heights and District 14 will favor our modern day Adelita, a figure from the Mexican Revolution epitomizing the role of women in the eternal fight for democracy.
Presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders has hinged his campaign on the need for a revolutionary shift in the way government works, a change which will put real, everyday people back in the center of a democratic institutions drifting dangerously toward autocracy, oligarchy and, face it, racially motivated fascism. That none of the high profile Latino political power-brokers upon whose coattails one candidate in the District 14 race has ridden successfully have thrown in with Sanders, says much about where their true interests lie. In many ways, Zamora is like our local neighborhood level version of a Sanders or an Alejandra Ocasio Cortez. Her long-shot bid to end the celebrity boys club and wannabee celebrity boy club politics as usual is making municipal government insiders nervous. so nervous that Zamora should consider the parade of those being trotted out to comment on her inexperience a badge of honor.
Despite her candidacy initially dismissed to the extent that Los Angeles Magazine didn’t bother including her photo in a brief survey of those who’d announced their intention enter the election race, Zamora handily gathered the signatures required to secure a spot on the ballot. She also held her own at a candidate forum hosted by Mendez Learning Center, a high school in Boyle Heights, where the audience response to her comments was substantially more enthusiastic than the response to a long-time L.A.U.S.D. School Board member. Brooklyn & Boyle is proud to endorse Raquel Zamora for L.A. City Council. Si se puede!