Father Luis Olivares, a Biography: Faith Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles

By Mario T. García | Go to book overview

ONE
San Antonio

How does someone become a figure like Father Luis Olivares? What influences in your life make you into what you become? As a young boy, Luis Olivares did not know that he would become the champion of Central American refugees and undocumented Mexican immigrants. So how can one—or how can I—explain this?


I

In 1917, the revolution in Mexico had been raging for seven years. The dictator, Porfirio Díaz, was overthrown in 1911 after ruling Mexico for over three decades. However, his collapse only inaugurated further conflict, as different revolutionary groups turned on each other and as the remnants of the old Porfirian order attempted to regain power. Thousands of combatants and innocent civilians lost their lives in Mexico’s bloodiest civil war. Onetenth of the population—about a million people—perished. To escape this chaos that also ruined the economy, over a million Mexicans had crossed the border into the United States by the end of the 1920s. Many moved into Texas, seeking refuge and a way of sustaining their families.1

Damaso Olivares and his wife, Inez, had peacefully lived in the small town of Parras, outside of Saltillo in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, about 200 miles from the border with Texas.2 He was a bricklayer and carpenter on the ranch of Francisco Madero, who initially led the revolution against Díaz and was elected President of Mexico, only to be assassinated in 1913. Damaso provided enough for his wife and five children. He was a devout Catholic, as was his wife, and served as the sacristano or sacristan at his church: someone who took care of the sacristy where the priest’s vestments and the sacred vessels are kept. But the revolution affected every aspect of life, including religion. Many revolutionaries blamed the Catholic Church for its support of the Díaz regime and believed that the Church only favored the rich and powerful. They persecuted the Church and those

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Father Luis Olivares, a Biography: Faith Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction 5
  • One - San Antonio 31
  • Two - Seminary 56
  • Three - Priesthood 86
  • Four - Company Man 124
  • Five - Conversion 154
  • Six - Organizing the Barrio 181
  • Seven - Community Priest 207
  • Eight - Preparing Sanctuary 248
  • Nine - Declaring Sanctuary 307
  • Ten - Expanding Sanctuary 343
  • Eleven - The Good Pastor 390
  • Twelve - ¡presente! 445
  • Epilogue 498
  • Acknowledgments 501
  • Notes 503
  • Bibliography 539
  • Index 545
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