Eric Quezada. Presente.

Beloved Mission Activist dies at 45

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Love of life: Eric, Lorena and Ixchel
PHOTO BY HILARY KLEIN

By Roberto Lovato and Jason Ferreira

"I'd love to see a garden of flowers there," whispered Eric Quezada a few days before his final breath on Earth. Looking like a Guatemalan Quixote, a lanky Eric pointed to the front of his Bernal Heights home with an index finger whittled down by a cancer he'd been fighting ferociously for seven years.

Days later, about 150 people brought pots packed with daisies, bougainvilleas, lavender, lots of red roses — and a bright bouquet of candles to bear witness to the life and friendship of a man who had planted his gentle way into our thoughts, our actions and—most especially—our hearts. To see the tearful and trembling faces of the diverse crowd — former Salvadoran revolutionaries, African American internationalists, soccer buddies made over a lifetime, immigrant rights advocates, Aztec dancers, Guatemalan family members, long time and recent Mission residents, queer leaders and the (Latino) Man Who Would Be Mayor — was heartbreaking. But at the same time we were all shining forth the beautiful Mission that Eric spent a lifetime steadfastly tending to with love.

A true revolutionary, our friend, our brother, who died Aug. 24 at 45, Eric Quezada, lived and died organizing his community, La Misión.

San Francisco and the wider community lost more than just a housing activist, a former candidate for supervisor, and an extraordinarily effective standard bearer of the left. We lost a husband-father-son-brother, a loyal friend and mentor, and a spiritual-political figure whose sources of beauty only became obvious after he gently touched you.

The son of Carlos and Clara Quezada, two Guatemalan immigrants known to many Mission residents as the dynamic duo that birthed two soccer stars (Eric and older brother Carlos) and owned CQ Bike shop on 24th Street, the very soft-spoken Eric lived to bridge the human and the political.

Traveling as a child between a San Francisco on the verge of the silicon revolution-based gentrification wave and wartime Guatemala, Eric developed early on a sense of the emotional and political circuits connecting movements and people on the insurgent continent of América. He grew up hearing stories of very involved and engaged family members like aunt, Ana Maria Quezada, who was arrested for protesting and organizing in Argentina during the 1978 World Cup, and his parents, who lived through the military coup that ousted democratically-elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. "I remember hearing stories about Arbenz," Eric once told us, adding, "—and how the U.S. sponsored the coup."

Eric's unique vision was also born out of the racism –and the resistance to it-back home in the Bay Area. Eric often talked of how his mother and he once witnessed two police officers harassing several young African American boys in the parking lot of a convenience store. Clara immediately took the officers to task for their racism, refusing to leave until they left the young boys alone. Eric never forgot his immigrant mother's courage, her transcendent lesson: always stand alongside those who face injustice.

"Eric is a continuum," fellow organizer and beloved compañera, Lorena Melgarejo, said. "His beliefs, his commitment didn't stop in public. They are deep in how he thought about life. As a dad, as a friend, as a lover- that's who he was," said Lorena.

After Eric told her when they first met that he didn't want to burden her with his cancer, Lorena responded: "You have no right to stop your life, you can't close the door to life!" After that, they were never apart. Embracing life, one filled with no regrets, they fell in love immediately. A few years later, upon the arrival of their beautiful daughter Ixchel, Lorena reminded the larger-than-life, activist father that, "You can't put your personal life on hold because there'll always be an event, a meeting or some crisis in the world."