Eva Catalina Vasquez Camacho selflessly dedicated her life to family, friends, and the farm worker movement. Born one of three sisters and a brother in the Rio Grande Valley town of Brownsville, Texas on February 8, 1969, Eva lived in Mexico before moving at the age of five to Delano, California where her father labored for 40 years as an irrigator at the Pandol table grape company. She was raised in Delano, where she worked in the vineyards during summers and graduated in 1987 from Delano High School.
Eva majored in political science at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. There, she worked to bring more diversity to the campus—and arranged to bring to Cal Poly United Farm Workers President Cesar Chavez. After spending some time with Eva, Chavez was so impressed that he invited her to visit the UFW’s headquarters at Keene. Eva took a break from college studies to work full time in Chavez’s office, helping him draft contract language and accompanying the farm labor leader to negotiations with growers. In December 1992, she also met Marcos Camacho, the UFW’s general counsel. They married in 1998.
Eva worked on the litigation team that defended the union in a civil lawsuit brought by a major California lettuce grower in Yuma, Arizona. She was with Chavez when he unexpectedly passed away on April 23, 1993. Eva continued with the UFW, serving with its Legal Department under Marcos Camacho. Their first daughter, Claudia, was born in June 1993. Another daughter, Alejandra, was born in 1994.
In early 1997, Eva and Marcos lived in Watsonville, where they worked together in the union’s intense campaign organizing Central Coast strawberry workers. Returning to Bakersfield in 1998, Eva kept serving as a paralegal with the UFW and gave birth to her third daughter, Aliza.
In early 1999, Eva became director of the U.S. Census Bureau’s office conducting the decennial census for Kern County and the southern Central Valley. She opened the office in Bakersfield, hired and trained staff and oversaw a huge team taking the census, including issuing special appeals for participation by local residents on Spanish-language radio and television.
She was an assistant to former Kern County Supervisor Pete Parra in his Lamont office before spending two years, beginning in 2002, organizing voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns for the UFW in the southern Central Valley. Eva managed successful campaigns for state Assembly, city council and school board. She rejoiced over former UFW grape strikers who just became citizens, new citizens who just registered to vote and high school seniors who were voting for the first time. “She was a tough task master and a joyous team leader,” says Giev Kashkooli, the UFW’s political and legislative director with whom Eva worked. “Her optimism was contagious.” Legislators from the Central Valley never used to vote for farm workers or the UFW. That dramatically changed in the last decade, in no small part because of Eva’s work.
“I actually wanted to go to [political] meetings if Eva was going to be involved,” Kashkooli adds. “She was smart, right and fun.” "In politics there are false ads, exaggerated claims, big-money big shots and dark corners,” says prominent Sacramento political consultant Richie Ross. “Once in awhile there's an Eva, someone who made politics about people, not politicians; someone who cared about policy, not posturing; someone who brought light into the darkness."
For two and a half years she worked with the provost at California State University, Bakersfield, handling budget and administrative chores. Then Eva was a court interpreter for Spanish-speaking defendants and witnesses in criminal court proceedings in Bakersfield starting in 2006. She returned to studying for the law as part of a legal apprenticeship program with her husband in 2010. In early 2011, Eva was certified as a court interpreter from English to Spanish having passed both oral and written exams. She was a court interpreter until November 2011, when she was diagnosed with cholangio carcinoma. Eva braved eight months of aggressive chemotherapy, succumbing to the disease at home early on the morning on August 14, 2012.
She always maintained close ties with the farm worker movement. Eva spent years on the Board of Directors of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, including service as its treasurer.
She loved working with people and over the years recruited, developed and mentored a lot of talent. After her passing, one person she trained while running the census contacted the family saying how Eva had changed her life. The person is now attending medical school. If it hadn’t been for Eva, she would never have thought of becoming a doctor. Another former census staff person Eva trained is now a respected political consultant in Kern County. Both said they never met anyone with such energy and focus. Eva knew she could do anything once she put her mind to it. She showed many others how to do the same thing.
Eva is also remembered as very compassionate. Many people look down on defendants in criminal proceedings. But while interpreting in court, Eva always treated people with respect. She knew many had committed crimes, but in her eyes all people deserved to be treated as human beings.
So many people sought out Eva for advice and guidance, from dealing with personal problems to making career or professional decisions such as helping get their children into college. If Eva thought a person was deserving, she would drop whatever she was doing to offer the help that was needed. She inspired people to do great things, encouraging them to think outside the box and achieve what they didn’t think they could do.
Knowing Eva was a court interpreter, her 11-year old nephew was determined to learn Spanish in summer school so he could speak the language with his aunt. When she passed away, he was crying because he would never be able to speak Spanish with her.
Finally, Eva accomplished much with her three daughters. Claudia is in her second year at U.C. Berkeley. Alejandra has been accepted as a freshman at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, her mother’s alma mater, which also made Eva very proud. Aliza is beginning her freshman year in high school and all of her major classes are for gifted students.
Eva Camacho is survived by her loving husband, Marcos Camacho; her daughters Claudia, Alejandra and Aliza; her parents, Juana Maria Vasquez and Martin Vasquez Sr.; sisters Lorena Romero, Raquel Segura and Angelica Lopez; and her brother, Martin Vasquez.
* * *
Monday Aug. 20, 2012
Public viewing: 5-8p.m. Rosary: 6 p.m. Delano Mortuary 707 Browning Road Delano, CA 93215
Tuesday Aug. 21, 2012
Mass of Christian Burial: 9 a.m. Our Lady Of Guadalupe Catholic Church 1015 Clinton Street Delano, CA 93215
Interment (following Mass) North Kern Cemetery (Delano Cemetery) 627 Austin Street (corner of Garces Highway & Albany Street) Delano, CA 93215
Reception (following interment) “Forty Acres” (Garces Highway & Mettler Avenue) Reuther Hall Delano, CA 93215