Announcing the Democracia Project

The California Story Fund (a grant program of the California Council for the Humanities) has funded "Democracia: The Impact of the Community Service Project in California".

In the summer and fall of 2012, three forums CSO will be held in San Jose, Hanford and The Imperial Valley, all sites of CSO chapters. In addition information and resources on CSO activities in 11 other counties where CSO chapters existed will be distributed. Democracia will also provide a rich web based resource for all Californians Through community resources and archival materials, Democracia will highlight the successes and struggles of local heroes. The project hopes to inspire a new of activists interested in putting democratic prinicples into action and effecting change on a local, state and national level.

This project was made possible with support from the California Council for the Humanities, an Independent non-profit organization and a partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit

Check back soon for information about the forum locations and the Democracia website launch

Cesar Chavez Breakfast honoring Gilbert Padilla

CSO Update ~ March 2011

Dear CSO supporters,

The CSO project leadership team would like to share with you some of the interest and work generated over the last year by the UCTV video and CSO website. Every month we hear from individuals and institutions across the country interested in CSO. Below is a brief update.

I hope you find it as gratifying as I do to see the story of CSO being told through so many venues. If you have comments or other updates, we'd love to hear them. Feel free to contact our office at (858) 534-9154 or at

Gretchen Laue, member of CSO Project Leadership Team

NEW! Ed Roybal Speech

Students and faculty from the Ed Roybal Learning Center attended the CSO conference at Asilomar in fall 2008. Debra Coaloa, an Assistant Principal at Roybal, asked Edward Roybal Jr. to be the commencement speaker at the high school last year. Here is his speech.

CSO Documentary

Organize! The Lessons of the Community Service Organization premiered on UCTV March 29. It is now available for viewing any time online at  Organize! is a 90 minute documentary that includes clips from the CSO Project oral history interviews, the 2008 Asilomar conference, and other CSO historical materials.

Project Introduction

   More than five decades ago, in colonias and barrios across California, Mexican-American men and women made history. They were workers and housewives, recent immigrants and returning soldiers. They toiled in the fields and on the railroads, in construction and in service jobs. For many years, they experienced racism and discrimination, and they believed they had no power to change the status quo. But through a unique experiment, they discovered otherwise.

    That bold experiment was the Community Service Organization, a grassroots organizing effort that empowered a generation of Mexican-Americans and changed the course of history for their children. Through voter registration drives, citizenship classes, lawsuits and legislative campaigns, CSO enabled poor immigrants to make demands on the political system and to move into the mainstream of American society.

    The CSO Project was formed to capture the stories of the pioneers whose work in the 1950s marked the beginning of the Chicano civil rights movement. Through this website and a range of other media - including archival collections, oral histories, a landmark CSO conference, and a book — the project will probe the organization's successes and failures in order to pass its lessons on to future generations.

    The alumni of CSO include famous figures, such as former U.S. Rep. Edward Roybal, the first Mexican-American elected to political office in Los Angeles, and Cesar Chavez, who learned to organize in CSO and went on to apply those lessons to building a union for farm workers. But the real story of CSO is about thousands of men and women who learned to hold house meetings, conduct voter registration drives, protest police brutality, and bring evening citizenship classes to neighborhood schools.

    It is the story of Juan Govea, who worked for the Santa Fe Railway by day and labored at home each night to translate the Department of Motor Vehicles manual into Spanish, and his daughter, Jessica, whose childhood experiences as a "CSO kid" propelled her into the leadership of the United Farm Workers. It is the story of Hector Tarango, who in 1948 made history in Orange County by winning the first school desegregation case in the country.

    At a time when a nascent immigrant rights movement struggles to overcome prejudice and combat the growing economic divide in the United States, building organized communities that engage in civic participation is more important than ever. The lessons and legacies of the CSO model can provide a catalyst for action today.

CSO Project • 9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0170-U • La Jolla, CA 92093 • phone: 858/534-9154 • e-mail: