The newspaper said that Dolores Huerta, civil rights activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) was to speak at a local community college.
My mom immediately said, “I’ve never seen her up close or heard her speak. I want to go.”
Now, I was a little surprised since my mother marched four times with Cesar Chavez with the fifth time being his funeral procession to his resting place in Keene, CA.
That evening we arrived early so we could sit up front. The college students, who sponsored the presentation, made Champurrado, Arroz con Leche, enchiladas, rice, and a whole array of foods. One thing about Latinos, we do like to eat and we put out food for guests.
At the appointed time of the presentation there were no seats left with at least fifty people standing.
Dolores Huerta, a petite woman with a strong voice, took the stand.
She spoke about the hardship of the early days (1940-60’s) of farm labor work. No bathroom facilities, one water jug with one shared cup for everyone, the short handled hoe, no rest periods, and pesticide spraying over farmworkers in the fields.
My mom made the migrant circuit to pick crops with her parents. She nodded her head at this information.
This is what I learned from her presentation:
Dolores Huerta was a teacher in Stockton, California:
I couldn’t tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.
She co-founded the National Farmworkers (later the UFW) in 1962. This was made possible by collaborating with other workers, mainly Filipinos, who were ‘imported’ to work the fields. She was not only an organizer, but a contract negotiator.
Who has the power? We have the power. People power.
Non-violent protest is difficult. Organizing workers was tough especially with backlash from growers and police. Huerta was severely beaten, resulting in broken ribs and ruptured spleen, by San Francisco P.D with batons during a non-violent march. Later she won her court case.
Dolores and Cesar spoke with Latino leaders in Arizona (his native state)when the legislature pushed through an agribusiness sponsored bill denying farm workers the right to strike and boycott.
Latino leaders declared this bill couldn’t be beaten. Cesar and Dolores silently listened while they explained why the fast and efforts by farm workers would be fruitless.
“No, no se puede!” (“No, no it can’t be done”), they kept repeating in Spanish. Dolores responded,
“Si, si se puede!” (“Yes, yes, it can be done”). Dolores Huerta coined that phrase.
Dolores Huerta is an intelligent, tenacious woman who has dedicated her life to her passion for social justice and equality for all people.
She teaches us that we have to get out there for the things we believe in and value. It’s not easy to make that trip, but it is worthwhile.
Ms. Huerta is 83 years old and still advocating for farmworker rights, women’s rights, and heads an education and leadership foundation.
Now, when you go see the movie about Cesar Chavez, UFW, and non violent organization (I really hope you do attend a showing) remember that this is a true story, part of history, and Dolores Huerta carries on this work.