Maria Elena Durazo is a California state senator representing Los Angeles. The seventh of 11 children born to migrant farm worker parents, she is a giant of the California labor movement, having led Local 11 of UNITE HERE and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Before joining the panel at a Zócalo event in Sacramento called “What Is a Good Job Now for Fairness in the Workplace?”—presented in partnership with The James Irvine Foundation—she spoke about picking cotton, her Volkswagen convertible, and her political hero.
What was your first job?
Picking cotton when I was a kid, with my parents.
How do you take your coffee?
Latte, no foam, sugar-free vanilla, hot.
Do you have a hobby?
I start hobbies and then I drop them. I had a hobby that I want to get back to, which is to keep my 1977 Volkswagen convertible in shape to drive around. I get it fixed, and then I leave it sitting around, and it needs to get fixed again.
Where would be most likely to find you on a typical Sunday afternoon?
Either at an event in the district or with one of my grandchildren—my grandteenagers. Maybe at a Dodgers game.
How often do you get to games?
I love the Dodgers. But now with this work up in Sacramento, It’s only maybe four or five times a season. I’m still saddened with what happened to us in the playoffs.
Who is your political hero?
My [late] husband, Miguel.
Now that you’re in government, what is your staff’s most common complaint about you?
I think it’s that I’m trying to take on too much.
What’s your strongest childhood memory?
My strongest childhood memory is watching my baby brother, a newborn, in a little casket being carried down the middle of church.
How did he die?
He became ill. We lived in tents out in the fields. He got sick and my mom was unable to get him to a doctor.