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Twelve Stories: How Democracy Works Now | Participants



Alfredo Gutierrez

The first time we saw Alfredo was at a standard town hall event in a big college auditorium, out in the suburbs of Phoenix. A good while after the panel had started, maybe 40 minutes in, a tall, elegant man in a tan suit, kind of an Arizona Clark Gable figure, suddenly appeared from the curtains stage right. He sauntered to the remaining empty place, sat down and when the moderator acknowledged his arrival, said with a small laugh, "I really have to apologize. I got lost! I've really got to get out of central Phoenix more often." He went on to dominate the rest of the discussion, as much with good humor as with reasonable argument. Even when he wasn't speaking, he was commanding.

Who was this guy? There are surely a lot of bios about Alfredo, so we'll just describe what we learned about him as we got to know him: he'd run for Governor against Janet Napolitano, then "retired" from politics afterward to take on a daily radio show at Radio Campesina, the premier Spanish-language station in Phoenix and wide surrounds; he'd been the leader of the Arizona State Senate for decades before his governor's run, at the same time founding and growing a successful public relations firm; before that, he'd been a student radical in the Chicano movement at university and was one of the founding member of MECHA; before that, he'd been in the Army in Viet Nam; and before that, he'd been -- as he found out on stage to his own amazement the night we first saw him -- one of those things the anti-amnesty folks rail about, an "anchor baby" born to a young woman from Mexico who came to Arizona just before she gave birth. He got such a kick out of that!

It's pretty hard to overestimate what a good friend to these films, and these stories, Alfredo and his wife Rosa proved to be. And since we saw him last, he's founded a fantastic website chronicling the current immigration debate:

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