By: B.J. Coleman
Bankers Hill resident Delia H. Talamantez is slated to be honored on Saturday, May 11, at the 50th Anniversary Ball of the Chicano Federation of San Diego County. Talamantez will be named the recipient of the 2019 Chicano Federation Visionary Award at the gala celebration, which will be held at the Downtown U.S. Grant Hotel.
“I have been involved with civil rights most of my life,” Talamantez said. “I was always getting involved in helping other people — through church, and through advising politicians. I have always been passionate about civil rights.”
Talamantez worked with the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee (MAAC) on their Anti-Poverty project from 1966-68, ending up as director. “That was a wonderful experience,” Talamantez said, despite the 16-hour work days.
She experienced the stinging bias of racism but decided to overcome fear and speak up.
Talamantez participated in a recent round-table interview anticipating the 50th anniversary celebration, together with Nancy Maldonado, new CEO of the Chicano Federation of San Diego County; and Mario X. Sierra, Chicano Federation board chairman.
The interview commenced with background and review of the federation’s half-century of community advocacy and service. Maldonado, who was named CEO in January, offered a quick synopsis of the organization’s changing arc of community service over the past five decades. Maldonado noted that the federation was born of advocacy first, to unite more than 40 small groups to support Latino rights and civil rights. Chicano Park was at risk, Barrio Logan was split by freeways, and many former residents were left without homes.
Talamantez added her perspective on the days of the 1969 assembly of the federation.
“The 1960s were a time of protest,” Talamantez said. “As immigrants, we were conservative, and taking this step, like we did, was bold. We took over the park, which gave the community power.”
Maldonado gave more of the historical background, observing that the Chicano Federation has evolved into a direct community service organization these days, responding to critical community needs, focusing mainly on low-income community members but serving anyone who qualifies for federation programs.
“The struggle is still on,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado is looking toward new visions of the second half-century of Chicano Federation community service.
“My vision is leading in social services that are so desperately needed,” Maldonado said. “We were once great; we will be again.”
Mario Sierra was born in Tijuana and is an engineer with the city of San Diego’s Environmental Services Department. Talamantez met Sierra through the Civil Service Commission and she invited him to join the Chicano Federation board.
When he was 15 and 16, Sierra worked summertime jobs in conjunction with The Chicano Federation. He assisted non-English-speaking persons with acquiring child care and filling out tax preparation papers.
“I could see the difference this was making for the community, in what was then known as Shelltown,” Sierra said. “I realized I loved nonprofit work.” He mentioned in particular the collaborative services on behalf of child development, nutritional support and senior housing. Within a year of being named to the federation board, Sierra was promoted to chairing the board.
Sierra happens to be the person who first thought of and nominated Talamantez for the award. When the Chicano Federation Visionary Award nominations were opened, Sierra said, “Delia came to mind.”
“Delia is a strong leader,” Sierra said. “Delia does that.”
Maldonado agreed. “That’s true leadership,” Maldonado said. “And she brings an important historical perspective.”
Also slated to receive honorary recognition at the Chicano Federation 50th Anniversary Ball is Irma Castro, the federation’s longtime executive director, who left her role in 1991. Castro will receive the Chicano Federation Legacy Award.
Organizers of the gala hope to raise $250,000 to support programs for child development, affordable housing and other services for San Diego County families. The ball is sold out, but the federation seeks continuing monetary donations and donated items and services for auction. Additionally, volunteers are always eagerly welcomed. More information is available online at chicanofederation.org or by phone at 619-285-5600.
— B. J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with 22nd District Legionnaire. B.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.