East San Jose celebrates the life of community organizer Sofia Mendoza


A memorial service held in honor of Sofia Mendoza on May 17 celebrated the life of a powerful organizer in the Chicano and Latino community of East San Jose.

Mendoza spent her life’s work rectifying systems of inequality for marginalized communities. Starting in the early 1960s, she tackled public education and led the California’s first school walk-outs, protesting unfair polices against Mexican-American students.

Alongside other activists of the era, including Cesar Chavez, Mendoza championed many causes: she fought for political empowerment and equal political representation for the Chicano and Latino community in East San Jose, stood against police brutality in her neighborhood, and later in life, pressured government figures to provide access to quality healthcare for the elderly.

Mendoza was the daughter of a labor organizer and often described her passion for helping her community as part of her nature. Referred to as “La Jefa del Movimiento” by many who knew her, Mendoza was honored by many at her memorial as a force of change for her community and beyond.

Speakers at Mendoza’s memorial included labor rights leader Fred Hirsch, immigrant and female rights activist Dolores Huerta, Mayor Sam Liccardo, Congressman Mike Honda and many others who witnessed Mendoza’s work and celebrated her strong positive impact.

Mendoza died on March 14, at the age of 80. She had struggled with kidney failures toward the end of her life for at least five years. Mendoza is survived by her three children — Linda, Saundra and William — her eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.