Berkeley’s New Mayor Jesse Arreguín Welcomed by Latino Center at CAL

Mayor Jesse Arreguín (center, back row) and students with the native youth circle in front of "Spirit Drummer," an acrylic painting on canvas by Juana Alicia. Back row (left to right): Leandro Gonzales, Jazlyn Leon, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Rosalinda Barrios, Carla Guerrero, and Adriana Betti Front row (left to right): Yazmin Madriz, Marialuisa Garcia-Cruz, Brisa Santana, and Mariaisabel Garcia-Cruz. Photo coutesy of R.I.S.E.

This past weekend, Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley’s first Latino mayor and its youngest mayor, was honored at a UC Berkeley.

UC Berkeley´s Center for Latino Policy Research (CLPR) hosted the event as part of a month-long Open House titled, “Arts in Our Community: Latinx Visions for Social Justice.”

“We are pleased to honor Mayor Arreguín,” said Professor Patricia Baquedano-López, CLPR chair. “His dedication to making our city a better place for all is commendable.”

To celebrate CLPR’s expansion, the art of Juana Alicia was on display. “Her art inspires our political imagination to move forward and take action to achieve social justice,” Baquedano-López said.

Youth from Berkeley schools gave a blessing for Mayor Arreguín in Nahuatl (an indigenous language of Mexico), Spanish, and English.

A young woman carried a chalice with lit copal to purify the room and to give blessings to Mayor Arreguín and artist Juana Alicia. All of the participating students are part of a native youth circle called Cuauhtli Mitotiani Mexica.

“Jesse Arreguín and Juana Alicia have always been champions for our youth,” said Adriana Betti, executive director of R.I.S.E., a nonprofit serving at risk youth, and the native youth circle. “It’s an honor for us to bless them.”

Arreguín represented Berkeley City Council District 4 from 2008 until becoming mayor. He has worked to address the housing shortage and other issues.

“I’m deeply moved by this blessing of the youth,” Arreguín said. “The City of Berkeley will remain a sanctuary city and fight for undocumented individuals, families and all Berkeley residents.”

Arreguín, a U.C. Berkeley graduate, is the first in his family to go to college. “I am deeply rooted in values of equity, justice, and social inclusion,” he said. “Going to U.C. Berkeley shaped my perspective and my values.”

Arreguín said he wants Berkeley to not just be a sanctuary city but also to increase shelter and housing for the homeless. “I want to make sure every individual in our community can meet their dreams. It’s important to give everyone an equal opportunity to achieve,” he said.

The son and grandson of farm workers, Arreguín grew up in a working-class household, where his parents instilled the values of hard work, public service, and giving back to others.

When he was young, his family was pushed out of their home in the middle of San Francisco’s skyrocketing housing market, due to owner-move-in evictions and rent increases.

Arreguín knows how disruptive and harmful evictions are to working families and how essential housing security is for the success of families and children.

The Poetic Justice art exhibit featuring the art of muralist Juana Alicia is on display through March 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday at 2547 Channing Way, Berkeley. Admission is free.

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