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Cruz M. Bustamante: 1953—: Lieutenant Governor, Politician

Childhood Filled With Work And Values

Cruz M. Bustamante was born on January 4, 1953, in Dinuba, California, the first of six children born to Cruz and Dominga Bustamante. He grew up in San Joaquin living near both sets of grandparents who came to the United States from Chihuahua and Zacatecas, Mexico. Spanish was spoken in the home and it was Bustamante's first language. He only began learning English when he started attending kindergarten.

Bustamante's father worked primarily as a barber and his mother was a homemaker. "My mother made sure we understood how to behave and my father taught us the value of hard work as he held down two jobs, sometimes three, to keep us clothed, fed, and in school," Bustamante said on the California lieutenant governor's official website in 2003. Bustamante learned the value of serving other people from his parents, both of whom were actively involved in community service organizations. The senior Cruz Bustamante was also elected city councilperson and he unsuccessfully ran for the position of county supervisor.

Bustamante attended Tranquility High School, and when he was not in school, he worked in the fields of San Joaquin. "A barber's son who grew up working mostly in the fields of the country's largest agricultural region, where the class division between farm workers and farm owners is as clear as night and day, he shared the feelings of self-doubt and lowered expectations that so many children of his social stature experienced," wrote Fernando Quintero of LatinoLink. As a child Bustamante did not imagine becoming one of the most influential leaders in California when he grew up. After high school he went to Fresno City College to learn butchery. It was a short-lived career choice because Bustamante's entry into politics came when he was just 19 years old.

At a Glance . . .

Born Cruz M. Bustamante on January 4, 1953, in Dinuba, CA; son of Cruz and Dominga Bustamante; married to Arcelia De La Pena, 1977; children: Leticia, Sonia, and Marisa. Education: Fresno City College, 1972-73; Fresno State University, 1973-77.

Career: Congressman B.F. Sisk, Washington, D.C., intern, 1972; Fresno Summer Youth Employment Program, director, 1977-83; Congressman Rick Lehman, district representative, 1983-87; Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan, district representative, 1988-92; California State Assembly, assemblyman, 1993-95, speaker of the assembly, 1996-98; California, lieutenant governor, 1998–.

Memberships: Association of Mexican American Educators; University of California Alumni Association.

Awards: National Legislative Award, League of United Latin American Citizens, 2003; Coastal Hero Award, California CoastKeeper Alliance, 2002; Legislator of the Year, Faculty Association of Community Colleges; True American Role Model, Mexican American Political Association; Lifetime Award, Golden State Mobile-home Owners League; Friend of Labor Award, Mexican American Political Association.

In 1972 Bustamante's father found an internship opportunity for his son in Washington, D.C., working for Congressman B.F. Sisk, who was the chairperson of the Rules and Means committee. It was an eye-opening experience for the working class rural Californian to be exposed to Washington's fast-paced political scene and elegant social life. Bustamante was assigned to read and answer the congressman's letters from his constituents. He enjoyed the task of helping people and he decided to pursue a career in government instead of butchery.

Bustamante returned to California after his internship and transferred to Fresno State University to study public administration. He stayed at Fresno State until 1977 when he married Arcelia De La Pena and began having children. Soon after, he was offered a part-time job as a fundraiser for local assemblyman Rick Lehman. Bustamante knew that the part-time job was an excellent way to break into California politics, but he also knew that he needed a full-time job to better support his family. Bustamante passed up the opportunity and instead went to work as the director of the Fresno Summer Youth Employment Program. Five years later, in 1983, Assemblyman Lehman became a U.S. representative and he again offered Bustamante a job, this time in a full-time capacity as a district representative. Bustamante quickly jumped at the chance to reenter politics and worked for Lehman for the next five years.

In 1988 Bustamante became a district representative for Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan. Bronzan was up for reelection as assemblyman in 1992 when he decided to take a job at the University of California, San Francisco, just eight days before the November elections. A special election was held in 1993 to fill Bronzan's vacant seat and Bustamante, a Democrat, easily won the election.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyCruz M. Bustamante: 1953—: Lieutenant Governor, Politician Biography - Childhood Filled With Work And Values, Moderate Politics Lead To Lieutenant Governorship, Laid Groundwork During First Term