Sam J. Maestas (born April 13 1953 in Phoenix, Arizona, USA) is a prominent community activist. He is the third son and fourth child of Joe Celedonio Maestas and Clorinda Cordova. Other family members include sister Mary, and brothers, Richard, Raymond Leroy, Gilbert,Tommy, and Joe Martin. Two other siblings were met with immature deaths; Gilbert Eugene and Randy Steven.
The son of migrant farmworkers, Sam was born in Phoenix when his parents were in town visiting his maternal grandmother Grace Bustos and his legally blind, yet musically talented Uncle, Alex Cordova. In Phoenix for a short visit, Mrs Maestas went into early labor and was rushed to Good Samaritan hospital where Sam was born. After nine healthy months, Sam began to exhibit flu-like symptoms and because his father was unable to find work, Mrs Maestas resorted to home remedies to nurse him back to health. After a few days of growing fever, Sam was rushed to a local doctor, who immediately admitted Sam into the hospital. Unfortunately, Sam had contracted polio and would have to recuperate in the hospital for several weeks. As is often the case with migrant families, Mr Maestas was told of work in the state of Idaho. After much discussion, and the need to work to feed the family, Sam was reluctantly left in the hospital under the guardianship of his maternal grandmother. After the potato harvest was complete, the Maestas family moved back to Phoenix. At the tender age of three years, Sam underwent the first of many surgery to strengthen his afflicted right foot so that he would be able to walk. After this initial surgery, the county contracted orthopedic doctor fitted Sam with a leg brace. With the help of this leg brace, Sam was able to walk and even run.
In the summer of 1960, Mr Maestas was once again forced to seek employment outside of the state of Arizona. This time, the entire Maestas' family; loaded in a 1953 Olds, along with all of their belonging, headed to Fresno, California. Mr Maestas chose to put the family to work in the fig industry, because harvesting figs could be a family ordeal. However, once the season was over, the Maestas family decided to join other Mexican-American migrants, whose destiny would be the agriculturally-rich Coachella Valley (located in Riverside County). A major consideration in making this move permanent was that Riverside County health department had a reputable Crippled Children Services program and a kind orthopedic doctor named Richard Carpenter. After living in their automobile for a few weeks, the family finally saved enough money to rent out a one-room apartment in Coachella, California. Mrs. Maestas finally got an appointment with Doctor Carpenter all the way into Riverside, proper, approximately seventy-five miles, one way, from the city of Coachella. For the next twelve year, Sam and his mother would be traversing into Riverside, usually via Greyhound bus, to insure that Sam was receiving the best possible health care and any necessary surgeries to minimize his limp.
Sam and his siblings attended several schools from first through twelfth grade. Despite his exaggerated limp caused by polio, Sam had a great love of baseball and all of its trappings. He played baseball, usually pick-up games in the streets of whatever community the family happened to be living in. However, he had an unmitigated love for hearing radio broadcast of every single baseball game that was being played, whether it was the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants (when the family went on summer vacations, err, pick figs in the orchards of Fresno, California). Although Sam was never able to play organized baseball until he was twelve years old, he had the distinction of playing in one championship team and even made the Eastern Coachella Valley Pony All-stars in 1969. However, where Sam made his most remarkable sport accomplishment was in high school wrestling. Sam wrestled in the 98 pound division through his senior year in high school. Despite his obvious disability, Sam not only won several tournaments, a league championship, but even placed 2nd in a CIF competition his senior year.
After graduating from Coachella Valley High School in 1971, Sam was counseled by a long-time friend, Mr Nick Ramos into attending the local community college in Palm Desert, California. In the fall semester of 1971, Sam enrolled into College of the Desert and began his collegiate years, which would also take him to University of California, Riverside (1973-75) and University of California, Los Angeles (1975-77).
Beginning of social work
After his tenure at UCLA Graduate School Of Social Welfare, Sam was hired as a Gang Intervention Counselor by the Neighborhood Youth Association located in Venice, California. While at NYA, Sam was also cutting his teeth as a community activist. In fact, during the United Farmworkers attempt to gain equal employee rights in California, Sam was involved in their 1976 effort to pass Proposition 14.
After his unselfish work in helping Cesar Chavez and the UFW, other progressive politicians called on Sam to help their campaigns. In the ensuing year, Sam was involved in several West Los Angeles political campaigns, including Tom Hayden's and Jane Fonda's Campaign for Economic Democracy.
As a reward for his involvement in community activism, In the summer of 1978, Sam was an invitee by the local Los Angeles organizing Chapter of International Youth and Student Festival, to attend the festival to be held in La Habana, Cuba. While in Cuba, Sam was able to speak to students throughout the USA, Cuba, and from all over the world and soon discovered common ground with most of these students.
After the International Youth Festival concluded, Sam volunteered for one year to work as a full-time community activist for Dr. Armando Navarro and the National Institute for Community Development. At NICD, Sam assisted Dr. Navarro in organized several community meetings and major Chicano Activist events in the Inland Empire.
Later in 1979, Sam was hired as a community organizer for the Inland Counties Health System Agency. Again, In May 1980 Sam was recruited again, this time by Ventura Gutierrez, President, El Progreso Del Desierto, Inc. to develop community-based health clinic for Farmworkers who reside in the Coachella Valley.
Without much developmental monies to start a full service health clinic, Sam was able to open the doors to the first ever farmworker clinic in the Coachella Valley. This was accomplished on January 1981. Sam Served as the founding Executive Director of El Progreso, from May 1980 until February 1991. Under his leadership, El Progreso received many awards and as viewed by the United States Health and Human Services as a "model" community health center. Among one of the major health services accomplishment was becoming the first community non-profit organization in the United States (1987) to be granted a license to provide physical examinations for all eligible Amnesty Applicants. All in all, El Progreso provide over 14,000 physical examinations, by far the largest provider in the USA. Personal accomplishments for Sam included being invited to the People's Republic of China (1988) and the Soviet Union (1990), served as a delegate to visit several Central American countries (1986) and inducted into the initial College of the Desert's Hall of Fame.