Dr. Velia Garcia and Cesar Chavez. Photo courtesy Larry Trujillo

Dr. Velia Garcia, the former chair of Latina/Latino Studies at San Francisco State University, died recently after battling cancer for years.

Garcia was central to the development of both the Department of Raza Studies (Latina/Latino Studies) and the College of Ethnic Studies. She was the first woman to be hired in a tenure-track position in Raza Studies, but she made sure that she was not the last.
She joined the department in the early 1980s with an M.S.W. and began teaching and developing curriculum while earning her doctorate in anthropology from UC Berkeley. She combined her expertise in criminal justice with an undying passion for the rights and empowerment of the Latino community and for any community or person that suffered any level of injustice.

To Garcia, social justice was not just a phrase it was a steadfast commitment. She was a powerful voice for those who needed her, including prisoners and their families, as well as under-represented students and their families. She influenced generations of students and colleagues who benefited from her teaching and mentorship.

Garcia chaired the Department of Raza Studies from 1999-2008 before it was renamed Latina/Latino Studies. Under her leadership the department grew by leaps and bounds in size and scope and became one of the focal points of the field of Latino Studies. Garcia showed us through example that an excellent scholar cares deeply for her community and that her excellence has its roots in that passion.

We will miss Velia Garcia. We are grateful for the many gifts she gave to the Department of Latina/Latino Studies, to the College of Ethnic Studies and to San Francisco State University. We are also grateful for the constant care and love that she enjoyed from her partner Larry Trujillo and her son Jimmy.

Garcia will always have a large place in the heart of our department and in the field of Latina/Latino Studies.

With un abrazo fuerte,
Teresa Carrillo, Ph.D.
Chair, Latina/Latino Studies
San Francisco State University