Daisy Maria Saez de Ibarra was a feminist before the word became a movement. One of a handful of women in the 1940s and 1950s to attend law school in Cuba, Daisy worked as a lawyer and social worker in her native country. In those days, such jobs always belonged to men.
She and her husband Octavio found conditions in Communist Cuba becoming intolerable, and in 1960 they left their homeland in search of freedom and a new life. After settling in Marin, Daisy never returned to her beloved Cuba again.
Daisy’s keen intelligence, boundless generosity, and personal and professional integrity helped her adjust to her new home. Eager to help other immigrants adjust, Daisy co-founded La Familia Center, a place where Spanish speaking people could find jobs, learn English and find housing. Although her title was Trabajadora Social (Social Worker), she was much more. She was the go-to person who connected people to services and resources, helped them solve problems and encouraged them with the words, “Si, se puede!” (Yes, you can!)
Her training in the law had sharpened Daisy’s sense of injustice. She recognized exploitation when she saw it and was quick to help people seek legal assistance and redress. Because of her own traumatic experience as a newcomer, Daisy knew that celebrating traditional cultural events was a good way to help immigrants forge a new community. She encouraged these celebrations, and the legendary cook would bring her famous Cuban flan to every event.
After leaving La Familia, Daisy saw the need for another place to serve the growing Hispanic community. She encouraged Marta Martinez to start the Multicultural Program at Whistlestop. Today the program thrives, with three fulltime employees providing seniors with language programs, referral and translation services, ESL, citizenship classes and more.
The final career stop for Daisy was the Marin Department of Health and Human Services. For fourteen years she helped Spanish-speakers work through legal regulations to determine if they qualified for Medical, food stamps or cash benefits.
Daisy was a fully realized human being, a woman of integrity and action. Cuba was always in her heart, while she worked tirelessly to provide friendship and assistance to others trying to adjust to a new home. Daisy and her legacy of service to her community will not be forgotten.