The Levan Center hosted Book Talk with Dr. Mario T. Garcia which took place at Bakersfield College on May 2.
During the talk, Dr. Mario T. Garcia talked on his new book “Father Luis Olivares, A Biography: Faith, Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles.”
Throughout the discussion, Garcia went over pieces of his book, which the biography runs down the history of the life of Olivares.
Within the biography, it goes into detail on Olivares early life in San Antonio, Texas, and goes into detail on his close friendship with civil rights activist Cesar Chavez as it highlights his contributions in the United Neighborhood Organization and the mark he left on the sanctuary movement.
Garcia began the discussion by speaking about how the current times have made it even more difficult to be an immigrant and how the United States political system has made it hard for those alike, as he compared the current times to the past when Olivares was most active.
“We’re literally in a period of time where I believe that our democracy is at great risk” Garcia continued.
“We have an administration that does not believe in democratic rights, does not believe in constitutional rights, does not believe in civil rights, does not believe in human rights, does not believe in gay rights, in transgender rights, etcetera, etcetera.”
Garcia started using content from his book beginning in the sanctuary movement of the 1980s that started in southern Arizona that was made up of 400 churches altogether.
The sanctuary movement is a moment in time when peoples churches played a key role in helping refugees by doing things such as clothing them and feeding them and in many cases letting them sleep within the church.
As Dr. Garcia continued he began to describe Father Luis Olivares’s impact on his local church in Los Angeles and how he became the face of the sanctuary movement during the 80s.
“Luis said, you know I cannot turn them away, because I see the face of Jesus in them, and I cannot turn them away because I wouldn’t turn Jesus away.”
Through the rest of the talk, Garcia talked about Olivares’s achievements and involvement with Cesar Chavez and how he played a huge role in the protesting for farm workers, eventually speaking mentioning Dr. Olivares’s death from complications with AIDS.
Dr. Garcia ended his talk by answering some of the students’ questions and having a short book signing afterward.