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Emma Luisa Creel-Vargas, Presente!

Created: 08 January, 2010
Updated: 20 April, 2022
5 min read


By Herman Baca, President CCR

As is the custom of our people I want to express our deep condolences from my family, from all who knew her, our community, and our people to Emma’s family. I also want to thank Emma’s family for asking me to say a few words in remembrance and celebration of her life.

I first met Emma, who was a member of the Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR) as a young MEChA student approximately 35 years ago when she first came to National City to help assist the community, and the AD Hoc Committee on Chicano Rights in our struggle to seek justice for a young 19 year old Puerto Rican youth from Old Town National City named Luis “Tato” Rivera. Tato had been shot in the back and killed with a 357 Magnum by a National City police officer (Craig Short), supposedly for stealing a purse with $1.87!

In the decades that I knew Emma, I always knew her as a social, political and community activist struggling and fighting for the civil, constitutional and human rights of students, the disposed, the poor and the Mexican migrant caught up in the immigration issue.   

Emma joined the Committee on Chicano Rights based in NC during the turbulent 1970’s, after the decade that followed the political assassinations in the late 1960’s of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The 1960’s were a time of the Afro-American civil rights movement against segregation, youth marching in the streets to stop the Vietnam War, Women, Native American, and other groups boycotting, demonstrating and rioting to demand changes in U.S. society.

For San Diego’s Chicano community that Emma was part and parcel of, the 1970’s were a historical time that had been set in motion after:

· Cesar Chavez in California had launched a worldwide Grape Boycott to organize farm workers,

· Humberto “Bert” Corona a labor organizer from the 1930’s had launched an immigration movement to organize Mexican undocumented worker, or the so-called “illegal aliens.”

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· Reis Lopez Tijerna from New Mexico had picked up arms to address the issue of stolen historical land grants,

· Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales a former world-class boxer in Denver Colorado had organized under Chicano nationalism to advocate for nation (Aztlan) building and,

· Jose Angel Gutierrez in Texas had called for the creation of an all-Chicano third political party… La Raza Unida Party.

Like so many others Emma also heard the call for change, and action thru self –determination, and became involved.

What I remember most about Emma was her deep involvement with the CCR’s effort to address the immigration issue that was starting to develop into a Mount Everest of an international issue along the U.S./Mexico border, especially here in San Diego and Tijuana.

In 1977 the immigration issue started to heat up.

1. The KKK announced plans to patrol the U.S./Mexico border to stop Mexican immigrants from crossing. The CCR along with numerous national organizations called for a protest march at the U.S./Mexico border to denounce the KKK’s plan, and state that violence by any white supremacist organization against any Mexicans would be met in kind by the Chicano community.

2. Politically, President Jimmy Carter announced his plan to address the immigration issue. The Carter Immigration Plan was immediately denounced and opposed by all Chicano/Latino organizations in the U.S and Mexico as a racist plan to militarize the border, and continue the exploitation of Mexican labor.

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What I distinctly remember about Emma is that in 1979 after numerous pickets, demonstrations, protests and marches held by the Chicano community to denounce Carter Immigration Plan, President Carter called for a meeting in Washington, D.C. to co-op Chicano opposition to his plan. One of the organizations invited was San Diego’s Chicano Federation that Emma chaired. After the president invitation was received, San Diego’s Chicano community met and voted to boycott the President Carter’s meeting. Emma at the time issued a press release stating in no uncertain terms that she would not attend, or dignify the meeting and continue to support the community’s struggle to create a fair and just immigration policy. For that, the community owes Emma a historical debt of gratitude.

Emma’s passing, along with the recent passing of local fellow activists Hermenia Enrique, Charlie Samaron, Ruben Rubio Roberto Martinez, Ruben Dominquez, and others in San Diego, and Cesar Chavez, Humberto “Bert” Corona, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales at the national level signifies that a generation, and a political era is slowly; but surely coming to an end.

To the young people present remember, in the near future our people will be the majority population in California and other states in the United States. Emma’s life; along with many others who have passed was a struggle to correct the social, economic and political injustices that afflict poor people, the disposed, the migrant, and our people.

If we are to remember Emma and all who have passed, we must continue that struggle.



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