The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
One of America’s most prided rights is our right to exercise free speech through protests, etc. In school, we often spent time viewing this through the lens of the revolutionary war, women’s rights, and the civil rights movements of the 1960s. However, there was often a lack of coverage for the struggle Latinx struggle for their own rights. As Hispanic Heritage Month continues, it is imperative to look at the different ways that protest and other forms of activism allowed for the furthering of Latinx rights in America.
Dolores Huertas & Cesar Chavez
Who is Dolores Huertas & Cesar Chavez? That’s a good question, because less than a month ago, I had no clue who they were either. Honestly, my school failed to teach about any Hispanic or Latinx historical figure. However, Dolores Huertas and Cesar Chavez are some of the biggest activists who pioneered the way for farm worker labor unions and their rights.
Throughout the history of America, there are immense complications with the exploitation of labor workers. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s and beyond that workers began to pursue plans to create safety for their work environment. Belonging to a family of laborers herself, Dolores Huertas had a direct connection to the injustices that laborers faced in the industry (Michals, 2015). This in turn created a passion to give a voice to the voiceless, and what ultimately led her to the beginning of her career in activism.
Huerta co-founded the Stockton chapter of Community Service Organization (CSO) to create voter registration drives, as well as seek economic improvements for Hispanics in 1955 (Bennett, 2022). By doing this, she met another activist, leading to her co-founding yet another organization, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA).
Later, NFWA would be asked to join a grape strike with Filipinos. However, there were big tensions with joining other races as often growers would pit them against each other. Despite this, NFWA voted to join the Filipino worker’s walkouts. They walked out together, on Mexico’s Independence day September 16, 1965. Cesar and Huerta based their modes of protest on Martin Luther King’s practices, asking workers to take vows to stay nonviolent, leading an over 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento, and striking hand in hand with other races (Kim, 2017).
These beginning strikes eventually led to even bigger strikes all across the country. In fact, Huerta moved across the country to New York where she led grape strikes from the East Coast. These mass protests led to grapes being taken off the shelves in numerous stores. The power of the workers banning together caused millions of Americans to stop buying grapes, which in turn forced the growers to sit down and negotiate. These workers were able to obtain contracts with a pension and medical plan, better wages, getting rest periods, and much more.
Huerta explains that it is only through the grower recognizing the power they hold as a person that they could pull this off. In CDF’S National Conference, she recalls a story of a farmer who called her to tell her grapes were being taken off the shelves in the store (children’s defense, 2012). She asked the farmer the name of the store, and he said he did not know. When she asked him to read the sign, he responded he could not read. The farmer had gone from Delano, California to New York City, to stand in front of a store to tell people not to buy from the store because they sell grapes. He got that store to take off the grapes.
The determination, time, and strength that the workers dedicated to this movement are of great inspiration. Spending years to obtain what they knew they deserved, they worked tirelessly and endlessly until they achieved their rights (2019). However, rights were not completely won for all farm workers. In fact, protests for farm worker rights continue even today. To read more about Latino-led labor rights protests, read History’s 5 Latino-Led Labor Strikes That Championed Rights for American Workers – HISTORY.
A&E Television Networks. (2019, September 25). Delano Grape strike begins. History.com. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/delano-grape-strike-begins-ufw
Bennett, F. (2022). Dolores Huerta (U.S. National Park Service). National Parks Service. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/dolores-huerta.htm
Kim, I. (2017, March 8). The 1965-1970 delano grape strike and boycott. UFW. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://ufw.org/1965-1970-delano-grape-strike-boycott/
Michals, D. (2015). Dolores Huerta Biography. National Women’s History Museum. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/dolores-huerta YouTube. (2012). Dolores Huerta: Together, We Can Make a Difference. YouTube. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtV9AuP6KaY.