Faces of Christmas: Raul and Ana Maria Diaz

December 24, 2013 

The basics: Raul and Ana Maria Diaz of Madera have been married 36 years. Raul, 60, is a retired educator and Ana Maria, 64, is a retired school secretary. They are grandparents to two girls and one boy -- with another grandson on the way.

What they do: The Diazes are volunteer Eucharistic migrant ministers at St. John's Cathedral, teaching catechism to Latino farmworkers. They also coordinate the Madera Women's Project through St. Joachim's Church in Madera serving the Oaxacan women of the central San Joaquin Valley. They educate farmworkers them on local politics, literacy, the importance of a post-secondary education and their faith.

Why they do it: "It's seeing the need of the people in our community," says Ana Maria. "To help others find peace and experience the help of God to make a difference in their own families and communities. ... We're aware of the conditions and situations and they have the need of someone they can share the issues they go through with us."

The turning point: Raul and Ana Maria say that working together on Juan Arambula's 1987 campaign for the Fresno Unified School District Board showed them that working together and helping their communities was rewarding.

Details, details: After aiding the migrant community in the Salinas Valley, the Diazes returned to Fresno where they have helped the local Latino community. Aside from teaching catechism, Raul and Ana Maria provide meals, clothing and emotional support to the Oaxacan community through the St. Joachim's church in Madera. For Thanksgiving, the two prepared a holiday feast for dozens of Latino men at a Raisin City labor camp. They also volunteer with the food pantry at the Education Leadership Foundation and the Central Valley Opportunity Center of Madera.

What others say: "They've done so much for Latinos since I met them back in their days in Salinas. The two always volunteer together to help others and are an exceptional example of a faithful couple for the rest of us. Raul has gone beyond his duties as a former director of migrant education to promote programs for parents and the high value of an education. They dedicate themselves to their community and it's shown in their recent work with the Oaxacan laborers at St. Joachim's." -- Juanita Torres, farmworker and migrant Eucharistic minister in Easton

How you can help: Donations can be made to a memorial scholarship fund at the Education Leadership Foundation (ELF) in honor of their son, Mauricio Diaz, who died in 2008; to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno for the migrant ministry; the Madera Women's Project at St. Joachim's Church; ELF's food pantry or the Deferred Action Help Center.

-- Angel Moreno

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