CSO celebrates the history of Civic Participation in Imperial County


EL CENTRO – 50 years ago community activists in the Imperial Valley registered voters, provided citizenship classes, and built a strong multi-ethnic leadership base to promote intercommunity harmony and civic action for all. Community Service Organization (CSO) worked on neighborhood improvement issues, educational and youth programs. They campaigned to have the first Public Health Nurse of

Mexican descent hired in the Imperial Valley. Although CSO worked predominately in Spanish speaking communities to integrate them into the overall community life, it also built a strong multi-ethnic leadership base. The Imperial Valley was

a leader in this area: the first Black president of CSO, Edson Fielder Sr. was from El Centro.


On Saturday, October 6th, Cruz Reynoso, former Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court and Professor of Law Emeritus at UC Davis School of Law, will speak to students and community members about the importance of civic participation and his own history with the Community Service Organization (CSO) as a young lawyer in the Imperial Valley. Rita Medina, Cesar Chavez’s older sister who was very active in CSO in San Jose will also join us. Rita was the first woman president of CSO in San Jose. She has a special tie to the Imperial Valley because as a young child she went to school in Brawley.


Today, when local newspapers and citizens often complain about seeing the same faces every year running for public office, there is a need to both celebrate successful models from the past that created new leadership and solved real problems.  October 6th hopes to do just that by telling the story of the Community Service Organization in Imperial Valley, and inviting community members to meet and interact with Latino leaders with roots in the valley.


Organizers hope to inspire activists of all ages to become more involved in their community. The Imperial Valley forum, sponsored by Cal Humanities, the University of California Professional Development Institute, and the California Teachers Association, hopes to promote a healthy democracy by telling real community stories about the success of civic participation. Through voter registration and citizenship drives, English classes, lawsuits, lobbying campaigns, and hundreds of small organizing meetings, CSO became the vanguard of the Latino civil rights movement throughout California and changed the lives of thousands of first and second-generation immigrants, who found they could successfully challenge a system through grass-roots organizing.

The event hopes to:

1. Engage the Imperial Valley Community in understanding and celebrating their history of civic action

2. To spark dialogue and interest in civic action at the local, state and national level in this election year, and

3. To continue to collect stories and archival materials for the CSO Project Archives at Stanford University.


Please contact UCSD for additional information and event flyers. The phone number is (858) 534-9154.  You can also send an email to info@csoproject.org, and learn more about the CSO project at www.csoproject.org.