Roberto Marin accomplished a life
full of service and friends

I continued to reach out to him over the years

The Kansan reported in 1973, at 37 years of age, then Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Charles B. Wheeler, bestowed Roberto Marin a “Honorary Citizenship of Kansas City, Missouri.”


Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands

Roberto Marin, arrived in the United States, from his native pueblo of Tangancicuaro, Michoacan, Mexico in the middle 30’s.

In 1973, at 37 years of age, the Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Charles B. Wheeler, bestowed on him “honorary Citizenship of Kansas City, Missouri!”

Five years later, at a banquet at the Crown Center Hotel, in 1978, the Morelos Society, named him “Man of the Year”.

Roberto A. Marin, a Mexican born American Entrepreneur, who passed away early this week, was a dynamo of activity that some said, ‘knew no bounds’!

He was once a busboy at the Muehlebach Hotel. For eleven years he toiled at Swift Packing House, just across the then 23rd street bridge on the Kansas side of the Kaw River. Don Roberto finally found himself working as a carman for the Santa Fe railroad.

All these jobs set the stage for him to be able to travel with his sweetheart Delia, whom he met in the United States, then back to her home town of Uruapan, Michoacan, to marry her!

Above all, Roberto Marin, was a restaurateur, establishing Marin’s La Fiesta restaurant on 26th street, in Kansas City, Kansas.

His deep association with his birthplace motivated the founding of the Morelos Society early in his career. He was no wallflower, involving himself in promoting Mexican cities to become Sister Cities for both Kansas Cities.

Through the Morelos Society, he motivated expos, fairs, fiestas patrias, festivals and once, escorted more than 70 KCK residents to Uruapan, Mexico, to formally establish a Sister City connection with Kansas City, Kansas.

This journey was in response to a visit from a delegation headed by Uruapan, Michoacan Mayor, who themselves visited KCK, making the Sister Cities program a huge success.

When I was leaving the Kansas City area, in 1976, I knew of his activities but did not come into personal contact with Roberto, until 2012, when he invited me to a Hall of Fame Tequileros gathering. Along with his many interest, I discovered that Roberto and his sons, were distributors of major tequila brand in Kansas.

I continued to reach out to him over the years because of my interest to archive and curate the Mestizo experience, part of the mission of the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands.

I found it natural associating with those having Mexican roots. A continuity of association that followed a course in my life’s experiences, that connected me with Mexicanos, who after living in the United States for decades, kept their respect and emotional relationship with all things Mexican, and energetically involved others to participate in like manner.

To Don Marin, ‘I was not a Pocho.’ I did not have to explain my Chicanismo. After Vietnam, I was a Chicano activist at Penn Valley Community College and President of U.M.A.S. at UMKC., in the early 70’s, Chicanos and others like Roberto Marin, strived for equality and justice using conflicting strategies.”

His actions involving relationship with Mexico were personified by his Sister City activities, which promoted cultural and social ties with Mexican cities with Anglo Saxon institutions.

My agenda as a Chicano evolved around self-determination, education and learning about our Mestizaje Cultura. These goals brought us into conflict with the likes of Roberto, who was seen as a scene stealer, someone who could not get enough being around power brokers.

Well, it’s now 2020. I am still a Chicano, with a memory of those formidable years. In retrospect, I have developed a respect for men like Don Roberto, who fearlessly moved in circles our own Generation aspired for.

I cannot deny my debt owed to Mexican people, starting with Mama Grande, who arrived in Kansas City from Triunfo, Baja Califas, in 1952. When I was six and my sister was four, she took us under her wing and protected us from the scourge that killed our Mother and debilitated my Father.

Or a relationship to a man from Chihuahua, Mexico, who had married into my family. Tio Jose “Grandote” Bernal would treat me like his own hijo, despite holding down a job at Armco and raising a family of eight! I became a life-long K.C. baseball fan because Tio Jose took me to ball games at Municipal Stadium back when the K.C. A’s were new to town… after the game, he would treat me to BBQ from Arthur Bryant’s, located just down Brooklyn street.

These relationships with Mexicanos became and continues to be very important part of my Chicanismo. Don Marin, accepted me as someone who like him, cherishes the history and culture of our Ancestors…as long as I did not cross him!