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Los Angeles politician Gloria Molina has died at age 74

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A groundbreaking Southern California politician has died. Gloria Molina was a series of firsts - the first Latina elected to serve in the state assembly, the LA City Council and the LA County Board of Supervisors. The Brennan Center for Justice shared this video of Molina talking about power.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GLORIA MOLINA: You had to break through that glass ceiling. The guys had a tough time with it. Power is very, very important. Anyone who has it, they're not going to share it. You almost have to strip them of it.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano says Molina was a pioneer.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: Not just in Southern California but across the United States.

FADEL: In the 1970s, she was active in the Chicano movement, which helped shape her political career. Molina advocated for many issues, including environmental justice, health care and public transit.

ARELLANO: She was doing these achievements in the '80s and '90s, where Latinas across the United States and women, for that matter, were looking for political representation.

MARTÍNEZ: Molina was also known for being outspoken on issues she cared about.

ARELLANO: The reason people loved her so much is because they reminded her of their tia, their aunts, their mothers or even sisters. Just, you know, she was always that tia who said what needed to be said, even though people kind of got annoyed at her sometimes for saying those things.

FADEL: Arellano says Molina fought hard for her constituents in the East LA area, especially working-class Latinos.

ARELLANO: I think at the end, what people could learn is - especially people who want to get into positions of power - don't forget where you came from. Gloria never forgot where she came from, and that's why she became as influential a politician as she did, and that's why people are remembering her as fondly as they do.

MARTÍNEZ: After Molina disclosed earlier this year that she had terminal cancer, LA County leaders voted to rename a well-known park that she helped create. The downtown LA green space is now known as Gloria Molina Grand Park.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEPE RAMOS AND MAURICIO HERNANDEZ MONTERRUBIO'S "UNA FLOR EN LA LAGUNA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.