Photos courtesy the Garza family
merico Garza, a Retired Civil Engineer and local and national pioneer in Hispanic representation in engineering careers, died July 15. He was 97.
Americo was an Engineer with the City’s Bureau of Engineering when he and other Hispanics, dissatisfied with the difficulties they were experiencing in advancing their careers, formed the Los Angeles City Employees Chicano Association (LACECA). Americo would be President of the organization a decade later. LACECA is dedicated to advancing the employment, educational, economical and social welfare of its members and the Latino community through advocating for equal employment opportunity, promotion professional development and networking.
Two years later, in 1973, Rodrigo Garcia, a fellow Hispanic engineer working for the City, gathered other Hispanic Engineers, including Americo, in his garage in East LA to talk about their career frustrations and how to reach out beyond the City. The group included LACECA members George Esquer, Gill Herrera and Alex Vidaurazaga. From that meeting they created the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Americo was the group’s first First Vice President. On the first board were Garcia, Esquer, Andres SantaMaria, and Vidaurazaga. Today, the SHPE, a leading national organization for Hispanics in the STEM disciplines, has more than 13,000 members and more than 270 chapters, including at many universities.
After retirement, Americo served on the board of the Retired Los Angeles City Employees, Inc. (RLACEI) for many years.
Americo’s wife, Ella, preceded him in death. His grandson, Lt. Commander Patrick Nanson, serves in the US Navy.
A memorial service is scheduled for Oct. 21 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Downey.
The Club extends its condolences to Americo’s family, friends and former co-workers. n
THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO SUBMITTED THEIR MOVING TRIBUTES TO PHIL
|Americo Garza was one of the Los Angeles City Employees Chicano Association’s (LACECA) founding members. He and three other LA City Engineers got together in 1971 to figure out how they could help each other to be considered for job promotions they were constantly being bypassed despite having a higher final score on the LA city service exam’s eligible lists. That’s the reason LACECA was created on March 10, 1971.
He was born in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. In 1946, when he was 22, he and his wife Ella moved to Huntington Park where they raised four children. He worked and attended college at night for many years, attending East LA College, Cal State LA, and then obtaining a master’s degree in civil engineering from USC in 1968. He worked for the LADWP and for the City of Los Angeles, rising to the position of Division Engineer. He retired from Public Works/Engineering in 1990.
After he retired, he participated in planning events regularly and provided LACECA with his wealth of LACECA knowledge whenever LACECA spearheaded representing members in getting them equitable pay for bilingual work, grievances, employee representation in discrimination cases, and unfair treatment at work. I dearly remember Americo and his lovely wife Ella attending many of the events LACECA organized when I first started working for the City of Los Angeles in 1988. By the mid-1990s, LACECA had more than 10,000 members.
LACECA is the first minority employees’ organization recognized by a City Council Employee Relations Resolution defined as an organization falling within the meaning of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Other minority City employee groups were then motivated to create their own City Employees associations. Some of them that followed are the LA City Asian American Employees Association (LACEAAA); LA Association of Black Personnel (LAABP); LA Water and Power African American Association (WAPAA); LA Filipino Association of City Employees (LAFACE); LA LGBTQ+ Employees Association (formerly known as GLUE); LA Vietnam Veterans Employees Association (LAVVA); the Association of City Employees with Disabilities (ACED); LA City Firefighters (Los Bomberos); LAPD Latin American Law Enforcement Association (LA LEY); and the Affirmative Action Association for Women (AAAW), to name a few.
Americo’s vision and dedication have enabled many of us to be heard and recognized for our skills and abilities, regardless of our ethnic or socio-economic background. Thank you Americo for helping many of us have an easier LA City career! Until we meet again one day, Americo. Descansa en paz.
— Leonor V. Garcia
|The late Americo Garza was truly an admirable man. If you were lucky enough to meet Americo, you would quickly see why so many people admired him. He was a man of great integrity and character, exuding warmth, friendliness and care. His passion for life was evident in everything he did. He was always willing to help others and make them feel comfortable and included. It was clear that he genuinely cared about people and making the world a better place.
I knew that he loved his family, too, and cherished his family life. The vivid example was the enormous smile on his face (and eyes wide open) when he talked to me about his grandson, Patrick Nanson. And he would talk about him as if it were the first time you heard about Patrick – a Navy Seal – which brought forth great pride for Americo.
It was only later that I learned that this soft-spoken man was an engineer for Public Works and a board member for the Retired Los Angeles City Employees Association, Inc. (RLACEI); that he was the former co-founder and president of the Los Angeles City Employees Chicano Association (LACECA); and the co-founder of national Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Americo’s accomplishments are the stuff of legend. But these accomplishments, as outstanding as they are, were merely reflections of Americo’s remarkable character. Americo’s life was an example of what it means to be truly diverse, equitable and inclusive. He set a positive tone that inspired others through his work, not just with words but also by being someone who brought people from all walks of life together in common cause for progress.
It has been an honor to know Americo over the years, and I will continue to cherish those experiences. A selfless champion for others, he touched countless lives with his kindness and gratitude – never failing to put others before himself in every endeavor, no matter how large or small it might have been! He will be remembered as one who made history by breaking barriers along racial lines long sealed off from society’s gaze; and showing us all that equity can exist even if some remain skeptical about its possibility elsewhere.
May his light shine strong in eternity. Rest in Peace.
— Robert Larios,
|Every once in a while you meet someone you respect and like, one of which is Americo Garza. Americo was so gracious and kind – when you met him you instantly wanted to ask if there was anything you could do for him. I first met him around 1982, when he helped me join LACECA, the Los Angeles City Employees Chicano Association. In this organization he helped put together reading materials and seminars to prepare for City tests (I really miss those). These seminars were open to all City employees and were extremely helpful to anyone who attended them.
Americo was an ambassador, not just for LACECA, but for the human race – to me he embodied the type of person I want to be, every day. Americo, I salute you, and I hope we meet again.
— Mike Perez, Retired,
|Though physically gone, the life Americo lived and the many greats things he has accomplished will continue to pave the way for so many. My condolences to his family.
— Arlene Herrero,
|RIPAmerico Garza, with deepest sympathy.
— Trinh Pham,