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Meet Gabe Camacho

Q: Gabe, to start, can you please introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?

I was raised in the South Bronx by my Mexican father, Enrique, and Colombian mother, Alejandrina. Both became lifelong union members. 

My career has been dedicated to human rights, immigrant rights, civil rights, and labor rights. My lived experience includes being the son of immigrants, along with an immigrant rights organizer, policy advocate, and union organizer, business agent and political director.


Q: Can you share a personal experience that has shaped your views on human rights?

Absolutely! My personal history including my parents’ immigration experiences, my bilingual abilities in Spanish, bi-cultural identity, and extensive travel in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

As an undergrad, I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of an archaeological dig in the Mayan highlands of El K’iche, Guatemala in 1979. That experience exposed me to the horrors of a decades-long civil war and forced displacement.  And I was active in the Central American solidarity and the anti-Apartheid movements at college. 

I spent 18 years at the American Friends Services Committee (AFSC), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. Part of my role was as a human rights observer and advocate in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Equator, and Colombia. And in 2008 I had the opportunity to go on a BIPOC delegation to the West Bank of occupied Palestine, and our delegation met with Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Years later I was a founder of the AFSC’s anti-Islamophobia project.  


In all my work with working class immigrant communities, progressive coalitions, law makers, and the labor movement I have focused on building trust. And I believe that Intersectionality is key to sustaining social justice movements.


Q: What motivated you to join the Watertown Human Rights Commission? 

First I want to say that I am grateful to have been appointed to the Watertown Human Rights Commission. Watertown is a wonderful city, especially the East End. In my retirement I want to contribute to my community in a meaningful and concrete way. When I saw the call for applications to the HRC, I thought that was a perfect opportunity to get involved.


Q: How do you envision the Commission impacting our community? What are your hopes / goals for it?

I believe the Commission has a unique opportunity to connect Watertown residents with basic principles of human rights as well as how to concretely apply those concepts to civic life.


Q: What do you see as the most pressing human rights issues in our community today? 

Where do I start? Human rights encompass a wide range of issues that affect Watertown today. My short list includes affordable housing, labor rights, welcoming immigrants, LGBTQIA+ rights, racial justice, police oversight, and environmental justice.


Q: What strengths do you see in our community that the Commission can draw upon?

In general Watertown has welcomed immigrants. I am proud to live in an Armenian and Greek neighborhood. The Armenian community has built housing and famously established businesses on Mt. Auburn Street where customers come from far and wide. We also have a variety of religious denominations. Additionally, the City Council is progressive and very responsive.


Q: How do you plan to engage with the community and ensure their voices are heard? I'm thinking particularly of residents such as immigrants, people of color, younger adults, newer people in town, and so on -- folks who don't traditionally participate in local government. 

Outreach is key to this question. Drawing on the experience of gateway communities in the Commonwealth will serve as good examples. Communication with congregations, schools, and civic organizations in various languages and in culturally competent ways will be a good start. Equally important is to be a good listener. Knowing what the most pressing issues in each neighborhood are will inform and give direction to the HRC. I’m eager for us to begin our work.


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