When Estevan and Cecilia Flores were growing up in Pueblo, they knew their father, Tim, was part of a labor strike when they went from 2 pork chops at the dinner table to one or none. Flores considered the union to be part of his family so when members were striking and not earning a paycheck, his family at home also practiced austerity.
Solidarity with the union is one of three pillars of the Flores family foundation. They also believe in leadership in Democratic politics, and working on behalf of the Latino community. Most importantly, they find ways to work in all three areas at one time.
Family patriarch, Tim Flores, believed that to be successful with unions one had to be involved in Democratic politics and that only Democratic politicians that backed labor would be truly successful. With this belief, Flores worked his way up to executive level leadership in Colorado unions including positions as the Legislative Director of the Colorado Labor Council, the Assistant to the President of the Colorado AFL-CIO, and the Chairman for the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), which supports Latino workers.
Flores was equally successful as a lifelong Democratic serving on the campaigns of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Tim Wirth, Pat Schroeder and Gary Hart. An immigrant Mexican bricklayer and steel worker, Flores personified tenacity in improving his own family’s lot but the prospects of the Latino community as well.
Moving the family from Pueblo to Denver in the 1960s enabled Flores to continue his rise in labor leadership and facilitated his immersion in the movements of the day including preparing union presence at the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and joining the Coors Boycott in Denver and Golden. Flores represented labor issues at the state legislature as he lobbied for more favorable labor laws and civil rights.
Though Flores expected his children Cecilia and Estevan to be by his side after school and during summer breaks, handing out political leaflets and attending labor meetings, he encouraged their Catholic education. Steeped in political and social training, his son Estevan eventually earned his way to St. Mary’s College in San Antonio where he began his march toward a PhD and publication in immigration and health policy. He credits his father with instilling in him the need to work on behalf of the Latino community. Even holiday breaks were consumed with joining the picket lines during shift changes at the Coors brewery.
Estevan also witnessed the dangerous elements of the struggle for civil rights and the labor movement, “I remember sitting in the house relaxing with my father. We had just watched Johnny Carson and turned off the TV. Next thing we heard what we thought was a shotgun blast come through our living room.” The sound turned out to be a rock launched through the Flores’ picture window, clearly the work of anti-labor enforcers.
Like his father, Estevan was a pioneer, helping to start the Latino Research and Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Denver and serving as a founding professor in Regis University’s dual-language program. After his father’s death in 1988, Estevan left an immigration book unfinished and transitioned his research to health policy and the cancer that took his father’s life.
Tim Flores’ legacy also lived on in his daughter, Cecilia, who passed away this spring. She spent most of her career helping companies through work at the Small Business Administration and her free time as a leader in the Democratic Party. She was elected as a representative to the national convention in 2012 when she dedicated her efforts to helping President Obama’s re-election bid. It was her dad’s old friends who helped raise enough money for Cecilia to make the trip. To this day, her Facebook profile photograph features a chance encounter with Michelle Obama. Cecilia’s crowning achievements came in 2012 when the Democratic Party honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2014 when she received the Cesar Chavez Leadership Award.
Tim Flores is featured as a key figure in Colorado history on the wall of the Colorado Convention Center, always there to remind Estevan of his family’s values, “My Dad was born in Mexico and he and my mother were perfect bilinguals. He wore that proudly and taught me to always remember where I came from.” The Flores legacy lives on.