A Column by ROBERTA MARTÍNEZ
Published: Thursday, December 29, 2011 | 7:40 AM
To this day there are folks who are shocked to learn that there are a significant number of Latinos in Pasadena. But the fact is that one in three residents of Pasadena are of Latino heritage. When I first moved here I had no idea of the history of the Latino community let alone anything of Doña Eulalia or Manuel Garfias.
In the mid-90s I began to learn about the area while chatting with members of the Pasadena Mexican American History Association. At that time they were long time Pasadena residents dedicated to recovering and preserving the stories of members of the Mexican American community here in town.
At about this same time I met a young man who said his family had lived in Pasadena. “Really? What state were they from?” “They weren’t from Mexico they were from Cuba”. Whoa… jaw dropping moment.
I’ve since learned that his family was a part of the Cuban community that lived in Pasadena in the 1960s. The young man’s family received support via All Saints Church and others via local Catholic and Methodist churches. Many refugees were brought here, or Glendale or Inglewood, via the Cuban Refugee Program. Some of the community members shared that they went to P.C.C. All shared their memories of the Cuban Club.
The club was organized so that Cubanos could socialize with each other. There were a significant number of community members that worked at Farmer John’s in Vernon, but they wanted to get together to share some of the cultura from home. They paid dues of $5.00 per year and had dances three times a year. They would play cards together, the women would cook comida Cubana, and the children would have a chance to hear Spanish. They children their own Little League teams. A bit of home and a bit of here, in a place very far from the island.
This past Christmas Day one of those who shared this information passed away. Oscar Palmer was an activist, community leader, and an educator. He was born in Havana, spent 30 years as an educator – teacher and principal – in the Pasadena Unified School District. He established Palmer’s Income Tax in Pasadena in 1987.
He was an articulate, fearless, smart advocate for those whose voice might not be heard and he was a profoundly insightful political strategist. Above all he was a loving family man.
A viewing will be held on Thursday December 29th from 6 to 9 p.m. and a funeral mass will be held December 30th at 10 a.m. Both services will take place at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, 311 N Raymond Avenue in Pasadena. He will be buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery.