Last Call for Anti-Alcohol Crusader? : A Close-Up Look At People Who Matter


Xavier Flores remembers being angry about an article he read in the local paper about 30 years ago.

He was living in La Colonia, the Oxnard community sometimes known as the drug capital of Ventura County, and the article was about “marauding gangs” who terrorized store owners by smashing their windows.

The article said police wanted money to buy additional headgear and batons.

Flores, who now lives in Lancaster, was so infuriated that he wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper.


“Seeing how the police had treated people, it was the community who needed the headgear,” is how Flores’ brother, Roberto, remembers the missive.

He was all of 11 years old at the time.

Flores’ crusading has given birth to Pueblo y Salud (Community and Health), a nonprofit agency he founded to educate the community and public officials in San Fernando and Pacoima about the causes and effects of alcohol abuse.

Pueblo y Salud received $90,000 last June to operate for one year--$60,000 from county Supervisor Ed Edelman’s office, and the rest from the county office of alcohol programs. Most of the money pays for Flores’ salary and his staff of three. The balance pays for rent of his office space, leased equipment, maintenance and supplies.

His staff includes two people who speak to community groups about the problems associated with what he calls the “easy access of alcohol” in the community--death and arrests resulting from drunk driving, spousal abuse and illness.

“Information is essential to empowerment,” he said.

Among the victories Flores claims for Pueblo y Salud: the passage of an ordinance in San Fernando restricting the number of alcohol outlets in the city (there are 23 liquor stores and 32 bars and restaurants that sell alcohol) and the decrease of billboards advertising booze.

“We have been successful beyond our dreams,” he said. “We sought to reduce billboard ads for alcoholic beverages by 15%, but our recent report demonstrates a reduction of 80%. Out of 25 billboards advertising alcohol in San Fernando, only three remain.”


Flores’ funding expires in June. Unless he can find financial support, he will have to close Pueblo y Salud.

Flores supports funding for a range of organizations, not just his own, said Al Wright, director of the county’s office of alcohol programs. “It’s par for the course that the advocates want to see more money for their groups, but we have limited funding, and we have to make decisions.”

At 40, Flores has been working as a community organizer for half his life.

Despite their strict Catholic upbringing, all his 13 brothers and sisters were affected by La Colonia’s drug and alcohol scene.

One of his older brothers died in his 20s, a victim of cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcohol abuse, and another brother died of a heroin overdose. As a teen-ager, Flores said, he experimented with heroin himself.

In the mid-1980s, he coordinated a DUI program in Rosemead and Azusa. He earned his degree in social science with an emphasis in Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge and started working with alcohol programs in Pacoima and San Fernando. In 1989, he formed the Latino Coalition on Alcohol Issues, which begat Pueblo y Salud.

Flores’ passion for his work is clear. He will tell whomever is listening that alcohol abuse is killing the Latino community and keeping it powerless.


“He debates and debates an issue--and he never backs down,” said Augie Maldanado, a fellow activist. “It has to do with his passion for la gente “ or “the people.”

And if Flores’ funding runs out in June, will it all have been for naught?

No, he said.

“The biggest accomplishment is that if we leave today, the community has come to know and understand the problem of (alcohol) availability and how it impacts the community, and now they have tools for dealing with these problems.”

Personal Best spotlights notable people in the community. Suggestions for prospective candidates are invited. Please write to Personal Best, Times Valley Edition, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Or fax them to (818) 772-3338.