Originally Published in The San Diego Union-Tribune
Jesse Navarro - November 24, 2020
Our great country should always be grateful to the Native American people and millions of immigrants from all over the world that come to America for a better life and magnificent contributions.
This our story. The success story of two young immigrants that came from Mexico 60 years ago.
Maria C. Navarro, my wonderful wife of more than 52 years, was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, raised, along with eight siblings, by a single mother. She started working after elementary school to help her mother. They moved to Tijuana in the early 1960s for better opportunities, and Maria continued working.
We met in 1964 on a blind date during a visit to Tijuana and immediately fell in love. She was my date at the Hoover High School prom and later we married in San Diego in 1967.
Maria attended San Diego High School adult school while raising our four children and two adopted teenagers who needed a loving home.
In 1982, she started her own business, La Casita Restaurant in San Diego, and eventually opened and operated two more family restaurants with great success. She treated her employees like family, helping some of them obtain legal status.
She frequently donated food and money to numerous nonprofits.
After 26 years of hard work and dedication she retired but a month later she started volunteering at Rice Elementary School and Mi Escuelita in Chula Vista because of her love for children.
Wherever they are going, you’re sure to find something for the traveler in your life this holiday season with the TUMI Wanderlust Wish List.
I was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and also raised by a single mother along with my two brothers, Rafael and Armando, who had successful lives in California.
My life started with a terrible tragedy for my mother when I was kidnapped by my babysitter as an infant and taken to Sonora, Mexico, for over a year. My dear mother finally rescued me from the kidnappers.
Once reunited, I attended elementary school in Tijuana, and later our family immigrated to San Diego in 1961 with the sponsorship of my stepfather, Paul Holmes, a retired U.S. Marine. He was very strict but a good provider.
A few months before my graduation, despite my opposition, my counselor enrolled me in auto shop classes at San Diego Community College even though I clearly told him I was interested in criminal justice because I wanted to be a police officer.
After marrying Maria, I started working as an apprentice auto mechanic at Courtesy Chevrolet, attending night school and also working as a gardener. I never gave up on my dream of working as a law enforcement officer and eventually, I became a reserve deputy sheriff and later a full-time deputy with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department while also pursuing my criminal justice classes.
In 1974, after applying with several law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California, I was given the opportunity to become a San Diego police officer, thanks to a federal program that mandated diversity in law enforcement throughout the country.
I clearly recall Chief Ray Hoobler’s words: “Welcome to SDPD. We hired you and other minorities because the federal government pressured us to have diversity, but we will keep a close eye on all of you.”
I continued my career as a proud police officer for several years with many great moments but also terrible tragedies. I lost my partner, officer Archie Buggs, in 1978; my friend, officer Dennis Gonzales, in 1979; and officer Michael Anaya in 1979, all in the line of duty.
After several years in different assignments, I finally realized it was almost impossible to get a promotion. So I left SDPD to become a private investigator, working for various governmental agencies on civil and criminal cases.
In 2003, after Bonnie Dumanis became the first woman district attorney in the history of San Diego County, she appointed me director of community relations and I became the second Latino in the history of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office administration. In that position, I had the pleasure and privilege of working with all communities, law enforcement agencies, business groups, tribal leaders and media throughout the county and Baja California, Mexico. I also had the privilege of serving on multiple boards and commissions appointed by judges, several mayors and two California governors.
I officially retired in April of 2017 at the District Attorney’s Office as a special assistant to District Attorney Summer Stephan. Now, I reflect on over 40 awards and certificates for my law enforcement and community service during those four decades.
Over 60 years later, my wife and I, two immigrants, can say we found harmony in a wonderful community we continue serving. We don’t take it for granted and will never stop giving back.