Activist Video Archive

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Blase Bonpane

Part One

Part Two

Blase Bonpane grew up in Los Angeles. His father, an Italian immigrant, became a lawyer, and eventually a Judge.

Against his family’s wishes, Blase left home to join the Maryknoll Religious Order. He was drawn to Maryknoll because of their history of international service. 

After several years raising money in the Mid West for his order, he went to Georgetown University to get a degree in Latin American Studies, prior to being posted to Guatemala. At Georgetown, his ministry embraced the new teachings of Vatican II, with its mandates that nuns and priests should be more in and of the world. 

Already a proponent of Liberation Theology, with its ‘preferential option for the poor’, In Guatemala, he quickly sided with the poor, the majority of the people in that Central American country. That choice put him at odds with the government forces that labeled such activities as “Communist”. 

Expelled from Guatemala after only 15 months, Blase took his story of U.S. support for the oppressive forces in the Guatemalan government to the press back home, and quickly ran afoul of his religious superiors who instructed him to stop speaking out about his experiences in Central America. He felt he had no option but to leave the order.

He met his wife, Theresa, a former Maryknoll nun, at a Community Center she ran for the thousands who were leaving religious orders in favor of their own definition of service to the church.

Blase and Theresa formed a partnership that centered on organizing and advocating on behalf of the poor; for the United Farmworkers; the Black Panthers; against U.S. intervention in Central America; and, more recently, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

After the Nicaraguan revolution, they led dozens of delegations of progressive North Americans down to Nicaragua. In 1983 they formed the Office of the Americas to continue their work in Nicaragua and other parts of Latin America.

A longtime radio commentator in Los Angeles, Blase has hosted a political analysis program on KPFK for decades.

“Everything that is tearing us down today will become a memory, and this memory will be shared as an anecdote or a story or a poem or a play or a warning. It will be shared with another human being, who will then understand that he is not alone in his sadness. This is why we show up for others and tell our tales and listen to others. The great congregation meets daily, and you are someone’s angel today.”

-Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom

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