Patrick Garcia, whose family goes back generations in California, spent many years as a young man reconciling his American upbringing with his Mexican roots.
His own search for identity would eventually take him on a genealogical journey to the origins of Spanish California — one that established a direct line to early mission settlers of the mid-1700s.
Now, the 73-year-old Sonoma resident is volunteering much of his time preserving the county's Mexican and Spanish history, as well as strengthening his city's ties to Mexico. He is a member of the Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Parks Association and chairman of the P?zcuaro committee of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association.
"This area right here was the last major northern pueblo under the guidance of General Vallejo. It was a Mexican province at that time," Garcia said.
"We want to preserve our Mexican heritage in the North Bay, to keep it alive to let people know what some of the real history is in this area, he said."
Garcia first came to Sonoma County in 1971 to attend Sonoma State University. He said that when he arrived, he discovered that there were a lot of "farm worker kids that weren't being treated well in some of the schools around the county."
Garcia helped establish a local office of a state education program called Operation Share, a tutorial program that served kids from kindergarten to sixth grade.
Garcia eventually went to work for California Human Development Corporation, working on such issues as workers' compensation and the nonprofit agency's Project Intercept, a pre-trial court diversion program. Later, Garcia worked as a family and child custody mediator.
Garcia, who was born in San Jose, claims a seven-generation connection to a family that was among the colonists led by Juan Bautista de Anza who settled in San Francisco in 1776.
As a member of the board of directors of the Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Parks Association, Garcia helps raise money for educational and historic activities at areas such as the Mission San Francisco Solano, the Soldier's Barracks, the Vallejo Home and the Petaluma Adobe.
He was one of only two Spanish-speaking members of the association's committee in charge of saving the Petaluma Adobe. Among his goals are launching more projects that engage the local Latino community.
"As a board member, I've been trying to really cultivate a lot of the needs of the community, and especially the needs of Hispanics," he said.
Garcia is now also the chairman of the P?zcuaro committee of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association, which focuses on , a city in Michoacan, Mexico, that is one of Sonoma's five sister cities. Garcia has been on the association's board since 2008, and became chairman about two years ago.
"He's a selfless and tireless volunteer and leader in preserving and enlivening our Mexican-American heritage," said Bill Boerum, president of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association and member of the Sonoma Valley Health Care District board of directors.
(You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)