Cristina Garcia

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Name: Cristina Garcia
Age: 33
Hometown: Bell Gardens, CA
Profession: Spokesperson, BASTA, the Bell Association To Stop the Abuse; Adjunct professor in math at Los Angeles Community College

"My name is Cristina Garcia, and I demand that community and state governments be the best they can be."

Cristina Garcia had left her hometown of Bell Gardens behind, as did many people who grew up there, to find a better and more exciting life. But, a family illness drew her unwillingly back to what she considered a dead-end town.

“We have this brain drain, this culture drain,” she said. “Our city is never going to move forward as long as that’s the case.”

As soon as Garcia realized this, she decided to stay in this largely Latino suburb and its surrounding communities, and she has found her calling, as well as the unexpected glare of the spotlight.

Garcia, 33, is the spokesperson for BASTA, the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, a community group that formed in July after the administrator salary scandal in neighboring Bell broke in the Los Angeles Times. Since its founding, BASTA – which means “enough” in Spanish – has spearheaded signature-gathering efforts to recall council members, organized community forums, and launched voter registration drives.

Yet even in the midst of all she’s seen, Garcia has emerged with her ideals about government intact.

“We want better government,” she said. In advocating for greater checks and balances, Garcia concedes, “in some ways, we want more government.”

She decries the boy’s club of politics and community groups that get too insular.

She thinks elected officials need to be more accessible and more connected to their districts. But people also need to be more educated about government’s process. Ultimately, she’d like to see diverse coalitions working together to accomplish their community’s goals.

“My hope is that (California) can be a role model for the rest of the country and the world for how different groups can come together and work together,” she said.