“What I call living is going out and doing something and helping others,” Guadalupe Huerta often said. It was her life’s motto. She was born in Glendale on October 5, 1920 and died in Phoenix on January 14, 2000. Her parents were Loreto Verdugo and Tomasa Martinez Verdugo, and she was raised in Prescott, where her father worked as a ranch hand. Her mother, Tomasa struggled to educate and raise four children.
Guadalupe’s fifth-grade education was interrupted when her father died in 1931. To earn a living, Tomasa converted her home into a boarding house, and Guadalupe’s work was needed to help her mother in its management. By 1937, Guadalupe met and married José Huerta. War-time opportunities for women took Guadalupe to Glendale, where she found work at Luke Field. She learned how to repair airplane fuselages. Guadalupe and her husband divorced at war’s end.
By 1951, Guadalupe met and married José Maestas. With their daughter, Marta, the family moved to the Mexican American community known as “Golden Gate”. Father Albert Braun was raising money for the construction of the Sacred Heart Church, and Guadalupe helped raise funds. The Church was completed in 1954.
A stroke she suffered in 1968 did not prevent Guadalupe from “living the life that God wanted me to have in doing His work”, she said. Her work with Chicanos Por La Causa, an organization founded in 1969, is legendary. She was a 15-year member of the Advisory Board from 1978 to 1993. Her contacts with religious leaders, businessmen, and politicians enabled CPLC to obtain funding to provide social services for the poor. Guadalupe mentored many young Hispanics, encouraging them to serve on Boards with older members of their community.
Her insistence that CPLC provide affordable housing for the elderly and the disabled was something that CPLC did not deny. The apartment complex known as Casa De Primavera, located at North 45th Avenue, is an example of such housing. And the Guadalupe Huerta apartments located on 7th Street in South Phoenix provide easy access and mobility for the disabled. When the Golden Gate barrio was slated for razing through eminent domain for the expansion of Sky Harbor Airport in the late 1970s, she joined other community activists in opposing the relocation of members of this tight-knit community, many of whom were elderly. When the City of Phoenix decided to relocate the residents, she fought to ensure that they received fair value for their homes,
She also worked diligently to save the old Sacred Heart church building when the Barrio was being razed. Today, it is the only surviving building from the Golden Gate barrio. Former residents continue to meet there once a year. Without question, Guadalupe Huerta’s greatest legacy is housing for the poor, the disabled and the elderly.