In 1963 Dionicio Morales, the son of Mexican American farmworkers, founded the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF)
in East Los Angeles to better the lives of Mexican American families by providing services such as education and job training.
MAOF has endured and prospered for nearly five decades, working in partnership with government entities, organized labor,
private foundations, and the community at large.
This collection includes newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence, personal papers documenting Morales's family history,
manuscripts, and organizational papers reflecting his work with the MAOF and numerous other public entities. The collection
is heavily weighted toward photographic documentation, providing a unique visual record of Mexican American family, culture,
and social organizing throughout the twentieth century. The collection is also notable in that it contains typed, hand-notated
drafts of many of Morales's speeches and lectures.
Researchers who would like to indicate errors of fact or omissions in this finding aid can contact the UCLA Chicano Studies
Research Center at www.chicano.ucla.edu
Born in Yuma, Arizona, in 1918, and raised in Moorpark, California, by farmworker parents, Dionicio Morales witnessed at a
very young age the hardships associated with agricultural labor and the injustices confronting Mexican Americans in a society
that was still largely segregated. Although Morales struggled to get an education, he stated that he had inherited a "sense
of determination and dogged persistence" from his father, who fought for a better life for his family. Morales persevered,
first graduating from Moorpark High School in 1937 and then attending Santa Barbara State College. He went on to major in
sociology at the University of Southern California, where he obtained his degree in 1944.
Morales founded the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) in 1963. As the president of the MAOF, he devoted his career
to improving the lives of Mexican American families. MAOF has endured and prospered for nearly five decades, providing services
that include early childhood and adult education and job training. The organization works in partnership with government entities,
organized labor, private foundations, and the community at large.
The importance of the MAOF's work was recognized by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who supported one of many funding proposals
submitted by Morales to the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant, which MAOF received in 1965, enabled on-the-job training
for 400 workers. This was the first grant awarded by the Department of Labor to a community-based organization.
Today the MAOF is one of the largest Mexican American community organizations in the nation. The MAOF has trained women for
higher-skilled employment through programs that develop their computer and managerial skills and has created programs that
help the elderly obtain part-time employment. Serving as a model nationwide, the organization has developed literacy programs
for children that are aimed at overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers and established child care centers serving roughly
1,500 children on a daily basis. The MAOF also maintains a food bank in East Los Angeles and offers home improvement programs
for low-income families and an assistance program aimed at helping immigrants adjust their legal status in the United States.
It has community outreach centers throughout in Bakersfield, Downey, Oxnard, Pico Rivera, Salinas, San Diego, and Santa Ana,
In 1970 Morales formed the U.S.-Mexico Liaison Committee aimed at developing relations between the two countries through education
and greater communication. The committee met annually with top Mexican dignitaries. Serving as a goodwill ambassador, it fostered
good relations between the neighboring nations.
As a commissioner for the California Apprenticeship Council, Morales helped insure the involvement of underrepresented groups
in building and construction apprenticeships. Appointed by Governor Ronald Reagan, Morales served in this capacity for four
years. Later he was an advisor to the California Employment Development Department and a member of the Los Angeles County
Manpower Council. He was also a member of the National Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Labor, serving under
Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. During the Clinton administration he was appointed to an advisory committee for
the North America Development Bank. He also served as a board member on the Century Freeway Commission, the National Council
of Senior Citizens, the Los Angeles Child Care Advisory Board, and the U.S. Senate's Task Force on Hispanic Affairs.