State Sen. Ricardo Lara’s Bet On His Community Pays Off

“The high school walkouts, the murder of Ruben Salazar, the Chicano moratorium, all the demonstrations against the Vietnam war happened in East LA – all those events laid the foundation for me to be who I am today,” he recalled.

If you grow up in a two bedroom house in a Latino barrio with four siblings sharing a king sized bed and your parents came from Mexico as undocumented immigrants, odds are you won’t become a California legislator. Yet that describes the unlikely trajectory of California State Senator Ricardo Lara.

“I grew up translating for my parents and going to parent teacher conferences. I thought everyone grew up that way,” said the Commerce, California native. Lara’s parents, a seamstress and a factory worker, made minimum wage. Both gained legal residency during the amnesty program of 1986.

Lara, who is 39, grew up in the heavily Latino neighborhood known as East. L.A., and had little experience outside his cultural bubble.

“The first time I ever got to order a pizza I was 18,” he recalled.

The California state legislator talked of what it was like to grow up in East L.A., a neighborhood known as the birthplace of the Mexican American Civil Rights movement.


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