Latino Leaders Fireside Chat Series Launch with Tony Quintero

 

Silicon Valley Latino and San Jose City College had the distinct pleasure of bringing together the community to become part of our inaugural Latino Leaders Fireside Chat Series featuring Tony Quintero at the new Milpitas Extension campus.

We were challenged with the task of condensing this man’s amazing accomplishments and adventures in the two hour talk. We could have gone all afternoon. Certainly those in attendance wanted more.

Tony awed and inspired the participants with his unique life story. Starting out as a humble transfer student at San Jose State University to leading The La Raza National Law Students Association, to teaching at different universities statewide.  He also became a commercial real estate all-star, the first Latino to own a chain of regional malls to now becoming a Latino industry champion. All with a focus to support and inspire Latinas/Latinos, never losing site of the rage burning inside of him. As a child, Tony witnessed first hand how our community was treated back in the 1960’s. Refusing to come to grips with the question haunting him from an early childhood experience. “Why does God let us be second class citizens?”

What attendees learned was that Tony was able to harness that independent spirit and align himself with those values early on. Tony has always worked as an independent agent.

When posed the question of why he never sought to run for office Tony, answers, “because he did not want to participate in the money in politics bureaucracy or red tape.” This has allowed him to make the kind of changes and have the impact he has had in his career.

A child of a WWII veteran and a warm, nurturing mother, growing up in Redwood City, Tony experienced poverty at a young age as his father struggled to find work in the post WWII bay area. After serving and becoming citizens after the war, many families struggled and often questioned what they were fighting for. Tony’s experience was a lot like many Latinos in that era, trying to find identity, while facing racial injustice and lack of opportunities in school and in the workplace. Even to the point, as Tony recalls, of Mexican children segregated in schools and forced to share classrooms in horse stables. Until in 1947 the case of Mendez v. Westminster in which the Federal Court ruled this type of segregation as unconstitutional. Tony knew early on that college was his path. He found refuge in books, became a book worm. Bullied more for this, Tony focused even more, and fueled by the discrimination and misunderstandings around him, fought to make a difference.

Those battles percolate in every turn of Tony’s career. Fighting for justice through earning a law degree from Cal Berkeley, starting the first EOP Program at San Jose State University and being Elected First National President of La Raza Law Students Association in 1970.

Tony’s ascent was rapid and clear. He wanted to give Latinos a voice. He wanted to organize and lead. Being the maverick that he is, Tony did not seek to align with red tape, he aligned with action.

The next chapter in Tony’s career lead to an interest in Commercial Real Estate. Seeking to breathe life into a downtown San Jose area that had become run down and stagnant. He saw the future of this high tech mecca. He’s quoted in the early 90’s as predicting a major corporation would call San Jose home within 5 years. His foresight was dead on, to say the least. He moved on to the buying and developing of shopping malls, and was instrumental in allowing small, minority owned businesses to share the stage with major retail players.

Tony’s latest endeavor is developing and producing films which portray Latinos in a more positive light. Latinos represent over 25% of box office ticket sales, yet are grossly under represented on film. With well under 4% of roles going to Latinos. Not only that, but often cultural biographies representing Latino figures are often cast to Anglos. Tony points out numerous examples. The audience nods in recognition.

Those who were fortunate enough to sit down with Tony at our fireside chat were allowed a glimpse of a compassionate and determined individual, who so eloquently reminded us that revolution, comes from within.

We are certainly grateful for allowing Tony to share his story and inspire so many.