Young Adulthood

An episode in his teenage years as a student of his local high school, defined his lifelong pursuit of justice and equality for all and to champion the rights of the less privileged members of society, particularly his brethren who were discriminated against by virtue of the color or their skin. Dionicio became an accomplished trumpet player and became the 1st trumpet of the Moorpark High School band. As a reward he was invited with the school dance band to attend a performance by Henry Busey, the famous trumpet player, who was his idol, at Ocean Park Dance Pavilion in Santa Monica, a landmark venue at the time. Upon arrival he was refused entrance because “Mexicans” were not allowed. Nonchalantly his instructor and fellow students gained entrance and he was made to wait for them at the entrance for their return. Humiliated and freezing in the cold, his anger provided him with a new strength. And he resolved, right there and then, to champion the rights of his people, and other persons of color, to prevent a similar assault and degradation to their human dignity. He did not know it at the time, but this was the birth of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) which he subsequently founded in his adulthood.

Dionicio received the formal education that his undergraduate school teachers had discouraged, because he was Mexican, and prepared himself for his life long task. However, before he completed his college education, in the 1930′s, before launching his crusade, he had to overcome a life threatening illness, tuberculosis (TB), which was a widespread disease at the time. Several of his friends and relatives had already succumbed to TB and his medical providers had given him a grim prognosis, a slim chance of survival. He was advised that TB was the disease predominantly afflicting Mexicans. He reached deep into his spiritual arsenal bestowed upon him by his mother and sought the guidance of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the brown skinned virgin Mary that had appeared to a Mexican Indian in the 1500′s and who had become the symbol of respect and appreciation for their ethnicity; a pride of being Mexican. He prayed to the Blessed Mother and his prayers were answered. Within two years of convalescence, following lung surgery, Dionicio conquered the disease, to which he and his mother attributed as a miracle of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

An event which provoked a young Dionicio into action took place in Moorpark at the local theatre. He was forcibly evicted, by a former classmate, no less, who was the attending usher, for daring to sit in the Anglo section. This public humiliation, reminiscent of his degradation at the Ocean Park ballroom, finally forced him into an activist strategy. Enlisting the participation of a sage man in the community, Don Luca Perez, together they sought the protection of the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. Together they ascertained that discrimination on the basis of race or national origin was prohibited in California and each offense was punishable by a substantial fine. Armed with this knowledge and institutional support they organized a protest and before it became necessary to manifest their complaint, the theatre management, advised of the movement, capitulated. From that moment on there was no discrimination in seating arrangements. Dionicio experienced the taste of victory for the first time. And the lesson learned: strategic alliances, legal research, plan of action and collective leverage.

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