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Remembering 'One of Phoenix’s Greatest Civil Rights Leaders'

Terri Cruz, a founding member of Chicanos Por La Causa, at the Santa Rita Center in Phoenix in 2015.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
Terri Cruz, a founding member of Chicanos Por La Causa, at the Santa Rita Center in Phoenix in 2015.

One of the largest Hispanic non-profit groups in the country is mourning the loss of a founding member. Terri Cruz, often described as the ‘mother’ of Chicanos Por La Causa, died Thursday at the age of 89.

Terri Cruz always carried a warm smile, open heart and, some would say, a stick.

“She wasn’t a softie,” said Mary Rose Wilcox.

Cruz was one of the first people former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox met when she moved to Phoenix around 1970. Wilcox described Cruz as a tremendous resource for people looking to improve their lives.

“She was a very caring person, but also very firm,” she said. “The people who came to her knew that Terri is going to help me, but I have to help myself.”

As an elected official, Wilcox knew she had to help, too. She recalled how Cruz would approach people in restaurants and other public places and question why they had not responded to her requests for help.

“My staff knew if Terri called, get on it,” Wilcox said with a laugh.

In a Facebook post, Mayor Greg Stanton called Cruz “one of Phoenix’s greatest civil rights leaders.”

She spent a great deal of time at the Santa Rita Center near Buckeye Road and 7th Street, the gathering place for many community activities. In 2015 Cruz shared her memories with KJZZ, including a visit by United Farm Workers Founder Cesar Chavez who fasted as an act of protest.

In a Facebook post, Chicanos Por La Causa CEO and President David Adame said Cruz “poured herself out as an offering, fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.