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Former LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, A Trailblazer Among Latina Politicians, Has Terminal Cancer

Gloria Molina, a Latina woman with black hair with a streak of grey on one side, smiles at the camera. She is wearing a pearl necklace and a top with a print of red flowers and green leaves.
Gloria Molina announced on Facebook that she has terminal cancer.
(David Livingston
Getty Images)
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Pioneering Los Angeles politician Gloria Molina has announced that she has terminal cancer.

“I’ve lived a long, fulfilling and beautiful life,” Molina, 74, said in a statement posted on Facebook Tuesday. She said she has been battling terminal cancer for the past three years.

“While I've been getting treatment, at this point, it is very aggressive,” her statement said. “You should know that I'm not sad. I enter this transition in life feeling so fortunate.”

Molina was born in 1948. She grew up in Montebello the oldest of 10 children of a Mexican mother and Mexican American father.

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Molina’s career was a series of firsts: She was the first Latina elected to the California State Assembly in 1982. In 1987, she became the first Latina elected to the Los Angeles City Council. In 1991, she made history again as the first Latina elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Representing the First District, which stretches from Los Angeles into the San Gabriel Valley, Molina served on the board for 23 years.

Before she entered state and local politics, Molina served in the Carter White House and in the Department of Health and Human Services. Health care and quality-of-life issues, especially as they affected disenfranchised communities, were a longtime political focus for Molina.

In the 1980s, she became involved with Mothers of East Los Angeles, a group that successfully fought plans to build a prison in East L.A. In 2008, she piloted what became the Gloria Molina Foster Youth Education Program to help more foster children graduate from high school. In 2010, she supported the county’s boycott of Arizona after that state enacted a stringent immigrant law known as SB 1070.

In 2017, Molina participated in a Cal State Fullerton oral history project. She described growing up speaking Spanish at home, and learning from her parents’ example.

“My father was a construction worker; my mom stayed at home, raised all of the kids,” Molina said. “I was always reminded that I was the oldest and so I had to set the example for the family.”

She initially became involved in politics as a student at East Los Angeles College, participating in the Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War.

“Of course, eventually that led to getting involved more politically and making sure who was elected and getting involved in those kinds of issues,” Molina said in the oral history. “And then it became a whole new world for me.”

Molina has been chair of the California Community Foundation since July 2021.

In her statement Tuesday, Molina thanked her family and her doctors.

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“I'm really grateful for everyone in my life and proud of my family, career, mi gente, and the work we did on behalf of our community,” she said.

"I have a great daughter, son-in-law, a precious grandchild and another one on the way. I'm so excited!" Molina said.

"Most of all," she added, "I am fortunate to have this time to spend with family, friends and those who are special to me."

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