Lupe Castillo

by Joyce Bollinger

Growing up in Tucson’s barrio, Lupe Castillo learned at an early age about the fight for social justice. Even as a child, she was keenly aware of the intense segregation that existed at the time.

Her parents, Carlos and Eliza Castillo, set examples for Lupe and her three brothers and one sister: “My mother was a real fighter for the rights of people and my father took us to labor union meetings.”

In the 1960s, Lupe encountered Chicano House, a neighborhood center in Barrio Hollywood on Niagara Street dedicated to bettering conditions of Mexican Americans. “As a result of my initial contact with Chicano House, I incorporated myself into the activism that I continue to this day,” she says.

Lupe Castillo is a retired history professor at Pima Community College where she was one of the first to teach Chicano/a studies. She received undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona.

Lupe is a co-founder of the University of Arizona’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA). In 1970, she helped organize Tucson residents to establish the El Rio Neighborhood Center and fought to build the Joaquin Murrieta Park on Tucson’s west side.

In the 1970’s, she came together with Margo Cowan, Isabel Garcia, and Raquel Rubio Goldsmith at the Manzo Area Council, a program devoted to justice for all. They became known as las Mujeres de Manzo.

The group led humanitarian groups including “No More Deaths” and Coalición de Derechos Humanos. In the 1990’s Lesbianas Latinas supported Derechos Humanos—raising donations through dances and volunteering.

Lupe was also active with the Arizona-Sonora AIDS project and the Sanctuary Movement to aid Central Americans seeking asylum.

Margo and Lupe have been life partners for decades — they were celebrated by family and friends when they married 12 years ago in California. An immigration lawyer, Margo is a Defense Attorney in the Law Offices of the Pima County Public Defender.

Lupe’s activism continues today with Keep Tucson TogetherMantenga Tucson Unido — which works to stop deportations, assist asylum refugees, and has aided hundreds to obtain citizenship.

Lupe says. “My calling is to be out in the streets and teaching.”

(Reprinted by permission from Southern Arizona Senior Pride Senior Forum. Photo courtesy of KXCI (91.3) Tucson Community Radio.)