December 23, 2022
FLORENCE — Roberto Reveles, a longtime civil rights activist and regular speaker before the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, received the board’s first Civic Engagement Award on Wednesday.
Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, who suggested the award, said Reveles regularly leaves his Gold Canyon home to come to Florence to speak to the board for his allotted three minutes.
“A citizen who is so dedicated to regularly engage with public officials — against the odds of success with a board comprised of members of the opposite political party, but unfailing in his quest — should be recognized by this body,” Cavanaugh said.
“Equally important, and perhaps more important than the topic of his conversation, is that he exercises his First Amendment rights regularly … holding our feet to the fire, pointing out where he thinks we or other public officials have gone wrong, or praising or appreciating us when we’ve done right. …
“The problem always has been, and always likely will be, governments who benefit from a divided citizenry. But the solution is a citizen who engages with government at all levels to reason with one another.”
Rather than typical retiree pastimes, Cavanaugh said Reveles writes letters, goes to meetings and researches what government is doing “and how to impact it.”
During the award presentation, Reveles told the board that his civic awareness was framed by growing up in little Miami, Arizona, and the challenges he personally experienced. He said he couldn’t attend the nearest school, “because that was the American school.
“But I took those challenges, not as a victim but as a survivor, because the teachers constantly told me, ‘Bobby, dare to dream big dreams.’ I did; I still do. And I’m dreaming big dreams for my 11 grandchildren and their children, your children and your grandchildren,” Reveles told the board.
To hear his life’s work summarized sounds like a eulogy or obituary, he continued. “But it isn’t. It’s a recognition,” he said, noting that it is recognition of what he hopes the next generations “will carry on for this beautiful country of ours.”
Reveles, who is 90, was born to Mexican immigrants in Miami in 1932. After high school, he enlisted in the Air Force and served as a court reporter during the Korean War.
He pursued a career in diplomacy, studied at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and graduated in 1962. For 30 years, he worked in both public and private sectors, including working for five congressmen over 24 years.
Reveles also ran for Congress twice himself. On Wednesday, the board played a television commercial from one of those campaigns in which Reveles argued for better benefits for America’s senior citizens.
Reveles later was vice president of a gold mining company. He retired in 1992 and returned to Arizona, settled in Gold Canyon and had a 1,000-foot artist studio built behind his home.
He became an activist for many organizations “that fought for the rights of all people” in public policy, energy, the environment, education and the arts, Tom Bean told the supervisors during a meeting in November. Reveles also helped people prepare for the citizenship test and attended their swearing-in ceremonies.
He became president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, was founding president of Somos America/We Are America, and co-founded Unidos en Arizona, which provides free legal services to immigrants. Reveles led a protest march of 200,000 people to the state Capitol, the largest in Arizona history.
He has also been to the border to leave jugs of water for immigrants. He worked hard to have a portion of U.S. 60 named in honor of former Democratic Gov. Rose Mofford and was successful.
“His energy is unending,” Bean said. “Call him up sometime when you’re in Gold Canyon and request to see his artist studio.”