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Gloria Molina, Groundbreaking Latina Leader in California Politics, Dies at 74

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Trailblazing Chicana leader Gloria Molina passed away at 74 after a battle with cancer, leaving a legacy of breaking barriers in California politics. (Los Angeles Times/UCLA Library)
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LOS ANGELES — Gloria Molina, a groundbreaking Chicana leader in state and local California politics for more than 30 years, has died after a three-year battle with cancer, her family announced. She was 74.

Molina died Sunday evening at her Mount Washington home, surrounded by her family, her daughter, Valentina Martinez, said in a statement.

Molina, a Democrat, was the first Latina to serve in the state Assembly, on the Los Angeles City Council and on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Molina paved the way for future generations of leaders, said Karen Bass, who was elected last year as the first woman mayor of Los Angeles.

In a statement, Bass called Molina “a force for unapologetic good and transformational change in Los Angeles” who “advocated for those who did not have a voice in government through her pioneering environmental justice work, her role as a fiscal watchdog, and her advocacy for public health.”

Molina was born to working-class parents on May 31, 1948, in Montebello, California, and was the oldest of 10 children.

She was elected to the state Assembly in 1982 and then to the Los Angeles City Council, where she served from 1987 to 1991, when she was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She served on the board until she was termed out in 2014.

Molina revealed her terminal cancer battle in a Facebook post on March 14.

“You should know that I’m not sad,” she wrote. “I enter this transition in life feeling so fortunate. I have an amazing and caring family, wonderful friends, and worked with committed colleagues and a loyal team.”

The Board of Supervisors subsequently voted to change the name of downtown’s Grand Park to Gloria Molina Grand Park.

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