Things That Matter

Dolores Huerta The Latina Freedom Fighter Who Taught Us ‘Sí Se Puede’ Has Been Arrested Over 20 Times

If you are a Latino in the United States you probably have heard the name Dolores Huerta, or that of her political partner Cesar Chavez. These two authentic dynamos revolutionized the way in which migrant workers are treated. With Chavez, Huerta founded the National Farmworkers Association (now United Farm Workers or UFW). At age 89, she is still a civil rights activist and labor leader, and she, of course, is a fierce advocate for women’s rights. She is a true legend whose story should be taught in every classroom.

These are some facts about her amazing and impactful life!

1. Her full name is…

Credit: 00-tout-dolores-huerta-documentary. Digital image. Vogue

Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta and she was born on born April 10, 1930. She was born in the mining town of Dawson, New Mexico, which helped shape her political ideals.

2. Her grandparents were Mexican migrants

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Her parents were Juan Fernández and Alicia Chávez. Juan was the son of Mexican migrants and worked as a coal miner in Dawson. He later worked with braceros (Mexican workers who went to the United States on a special visa to join the labor force) in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

3. Her father’s stories made her think about the work that unions do for worker’s rights

Credit: -2—dolores-huerta-at-the-delano-strike-in-1966.-photo-by-jon-lewis-courtesy-of-leroy-chatfield_wide-a37548891c2b4691a1ffb4bd894bedc2e08aaa1b-s800-c85.jpg. Digital image. NPR

As often happens, political ideas tend to travel from generation to generation. Hearing her father’s stories, Dolores got in touch with the idea of unions, which in the case of Mexican and Mexican-American workers were used as a force against injustice. Her parents divorced and her father was a state legislator.

4. She was raised by her mom in a farming community

Credit: 26556_delores_huertafield.rev.1515427621. Digital image.  Southwestern University

A big part of Dolores’ political ideals has to do with farm work and what manual labor is truly worth. This is an echo of her childhood in Stockton, California, where she was raised by her mother. Her mom was a pillar of the community, a generous spirit for whom paisanos were family.

5. The family owned a hotel and a restaurant

Credit: 170830-dolores-huerta-ew-112p_e3246977529eb2c716c629787e818748.fit-760w. Digital image. NBC News

And Dolores’ mom would often give discounts or even free accommodation to struggling workers. She certainly led by example, and her impact was multiplied once Dolores found her political voice

6. She started her life as an activist when she was in high school

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When she was at the Stockton High School she was a majorette and member of numerous clubs.

7. A teacher graded her unfairly in high school, she considered it was racial bias

Credit: BC-NM-Dolores-Huerta-Birthplace-IMG-630×420. Digital image. Albuquerque Journal

She knew right there and then that she needed to fight for her rights and the rights of minorities. She got herself a teaching credential, and taught primary school, until…

8. She left her job as a teacher and became an activist, having witnessed injustices suffered by her students

Credit: BHR2U4GOPNFQNAEAXBV3YUW7GM. Digital image. The Lily

She is quoted as saying: “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”. Respect, sometimes change needs to start in the household and the field, rather than in the classroom, and Dolores identified that.

9. 1955: the year she started changing the world

Credit: cesar-chavez-dolores-huerta-2. Digital image. Bahai Teachings

In 1955 Huerta helped activist Fred Ross kick off the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization. She soon proved to be a force to be reckoned with. She soon took charge of the Stockton Chapter. In 1960 she co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association and in 1962 she got together with Cesar Chavez to found the National Farm Workers Association, which changed the lives of thousands of field workers and their families.

10. She was a master negotiator

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It was not easy in the 1960s to negotiate as a woman, let alone a woman of color. But that is just what she did in 1966, negotiating a contract between grape pickers and the Schenley Wine Company. It was the first time that farm workers argued for their rights with an agricultural business. Eso, chingaos!

11. She also organized the now famous Delano grape strike in 1965

Credit: dolores-huerta-188850-1-402. Digital image.Famous Biographies

California is one of the largest producers of table grapes not only in the United States, but the entire world. Well, Huerta led a boycott against the grape industry to achieve collective bargaining, which was signed in 1970. Huerta was able to communicate the plight of farmers to consumers, also a first in American activism.

12. She has worked as a lobbyist for life-changing laws that have improved the lives of workers

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If you or a family member have taken the California driver’s test in Spanish, for example, you have Huerta to thank for. Laws like this have made California a much more inclusive society.

13. She has been arrested over 20 times

Credit: DxEy6z3VYAQLiNu Twitter. Digital image. Dolores Huerta

This is a result, of course, of her activism. These arrests have been the product of civil disobedience non-violent acts such as boycotts or strikes!

14. She is still an active political activist

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She serves in the boards of various progressive organizations, such as People for the American Way, Consumer Federation of California, and Feminist Majority Foundation.

15. She witnessed a major political assassination: Robert F. Kennedy’s 

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As “Bobby” delivered his victory speech in the California presidential primary election, Dolores Huerta stood by his side. Moments later, on that fateful June 5, 1968, he would be shot.

16. She was once beaten severely by a policeman

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This happened in 1988, during a peaceful demonstration in San Francisco. She was protesting the platform of presidential candidate George H.W. Bush. She had broken ribs and her spleen had to be removed in an emergency surgery.

17. She won a lawsuit and guess what she did with the proceeds?

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Huerta being Huerta, she donated it for the benefit of farm workers. Her case also led to a reform in how San Francisco police deal with crowd control.

18. She established the Dolores Huerta Foundation in 2002

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The Foundation’s objectives: “community benefit organization that organizes at the grassroots level, engaging and developing natural leaders. DHF creates leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, civic engagement, and policy advocacy in the following priority areas: health & environment, education & youth development, and economic development.” We are lucky to have people like her.

19. She has received numerous accolades in her lifetime

Credit: medaloffreedom. Digital image. Dolores Huerta

Her awards include the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is also in the National Women’s Hall of Fame,  where she was introduced in 1993, the first Latina to achieve this.

20. Huerta had a relationship with Richard Chavez, Cesar’s brother

Credit: normal_055-CORKY-GONZALES-SINGING . Digital image. Libraries USC

The two never married, but they had four children. She had two previous marriages that ended in divorce.

21. Last but not least, she coined a very famous phrase… 

Credit: wp94f22340_05_1a. Digital image. Freedom March of Art

Sí se puede… yes we can. Wow.

Well-Known Chilean Indigenous Leader Alberto Curamil Has Been Acquitted

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Well-Known Chilean Indigenous Leader Alberto Curamil Has Been Acquitted

mapuche_international_l / Instagram

After worldwide protest, Indigenous leader Alberto Curamil has been acquitted of charges related to his actions to stop the construction of a dam on a sacred river. Curamil, along with his co-defendant Álvaro Millalén, would have faced 50 years in prison for “raiding a compensation fund,” “gun theft,” and “illegal possession of weapons.” If it weren’t for the four international environmental and legal nonprofit groups who advocated for Curamil and Millalén, it’s likely that the case wouldn’t have received international pressure from the public. The judges assigned to the case unanimously decided to acquit both of all charges last Friday, but that’s not often the case.

The criminalization of environmental defenders, who are often Indigenous leaders, is on the rise in Latin America.

Alberto Curamil’s efforts have earned him this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, often considered the “Green Nobel Peace Prize.”

CREDIT: @JAIMECUYANAO / TWITTER

Alberto Curamil is an indigenous Mapuche and Lonko (traditional leader) to his people. The Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile, their name translating to “people of the land.” The Mapuche view the natural world around them, including rivers and forests, as kin to their brothers. The Mapuche have long been victimized and criminalized by the Chilean government. In the late 1800s, the Chilean army was tasked with invading their land to privatize and sell it to individual owners. The government forcibly stole the Mapuche land and would go on to privatize water in the entire country. 

In the last decade, Chile’s minister of energy announced a project that would include building 40 dams on the Mapuche’s rivers, two of which would be in the heart of their community. While the project would generate more energy for the country, it would irreparably harm the riparian ecosystems. Alberto Curamil, 45, has dedicated his life to protecting Mapuche rivers and preserving the Mapuche native language of Mapudungun. He formed a coalition with other community members, academics, environmental organizations and launched a massive public, media and legal campaign against the projects. For his work, he earned the 2019 Goldman Prize, also known as the “Green Nobel Peace Prize.” The government acknowledged his work with criminal charges that would effectively mean he’d die in prison.

Police accused Curamil of disorderly conduct and beat him while he was in custody.

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According to the Goldman Prize organization, “police arrested Curamil and two other Mapuche leaders and accused them of disorderly conduct and causing public unrest for organizing protests. Police beat Curamil while in custody, badly bruising his face. Police also attacked his pregnant wife.” Still, his legal battle with the Chilean government proved fruitful. Two years after Curamil was arrested and beaten, his continued campaign yielded a victory: Chile’s Third Environmental Tribunal ruled that one of the two dams would be canceled because the government violated its own laws to consult with the Mapuche or environmental experts on its impacts.

Two years after the victory, police arrested Curamil once again in what many believe was a frame-job to take Curamil out of the picture while Chile approved another hydroelectric project on the same river.

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Curamil was arrested in August 2018 after an “anonymous tip” connected Curamil, Álvaro Millalén, Alberto José Cáceres and Víctor Llanquileo Pilquimán with a $76 million peso robbery. Curamil has spent the last 15 months in Temuco prison awaiting trial. He wasn’t even able to attend his own awards ceremony to receive the Green Nobel Peace award. His daughter, Belén, 18, went to accept the award on behalf of her father, who she called a “political prisoner,” according to NBC News. Many believe the firearms “found” in his home were planted given that his DNA was not found on the weapons.

“I am very happy because we knew that both Alberto Curamil and Álvaro Millalén were innocent,” Curamil’s daughter, Belén, told press outside the courtroom that finally allowed Curamil to walk free, according to NBC News. “If they were imprisoned for so long, it is because they raised their voices and fought for our territory, for the freedom of our ‘mapu,’ the freedom of our rivers and the freedom of the Mapuche people.” Curamil’s advocacy for the environment as inadvertently spurred another advocacy in his daughter: to decriminalize environmental human rights defenders.

Belén has spent the last 15 months of her father’s imprisonment to speak out against the rising criminalization of indigenous leaders for defending their land. In September, she spoke in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the topic.

READ: Indigenous Leaders And Environmental Groups Have Concerns Over President AMLO’s Tourist Train In The Yucatán

Camilla Cabello Appears Alongside Latina Activists And Game Changers For Time Magazine’s Newly Launched ‘Time 100 Next’

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Camilla Cabello Appears Alongside Latina Activists And Game Changers For Time Magazine’s Newly Launched ‘Time 100 Next’

camila_cabello / Instagram

Time Magazine launched the first edition of its TIME 100 Next list. The new list, which is meant to expand upon Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, which was first published in 1999, is meant to honor the rising stars of industries such as activism, art, and health.  

Not surprisingly, many of the honorees are Latinos!

Camila Cabello Time’s Big Artist 

Grammy-winning recording artist Alejandro Sanz writes about Cuban artist and upcoming actress Camila Cabello in the TIME magazine profile writing that she “is a pure and magnetic artist. We met a few years ago at the Latin Grammys, and shortly afterward, she told me that she wanted to sing together. In all my years in this industry, Camila was the first artist I’ve ever told that she could pick whatever song she wanted to sing.”

In his piece about Cabello, Sanz reiterates Cabello’s career writing that following her success with Fifth Harmony she began recording as a solo artist and worked to bring the roots of Latin music to a  broader audience. “In times like these, when noise can distort the purity of an artist’s message, Camila has managed to honor her story and her background in an authentic way with her pop music. The impact of her songs—from ‘Havana’ and ‘Señorita’ to ‘Shameless’ and ‘Liar’—has opened the door so that the world can see and hear the massive potential of the Latin music community.”

Vanessa Luna The Big Time Leader 

Writer Jasmine Aguilera explained that Vanessa Luna was working as an educator in Los Angeles in 2014 when one of her student’s parents had been deported. The incident gave Luna “an up-close view of how immigration policy can impact a child’s education. Three years later, the educator and DACA recipient co-founded ImmSchools, a nonprofit that trains teachers to better support America’s millions of children with undocumented family members by creating more inclusive classroom environments. In ImmSchools’ first 12 months, 960 students and their families participated in its programs—which include know-your-rights workshops and college-admissions guidance—and Luna, who was named a 2019 Roddenberry Fellow, says the nonprofit will reach more than 1,000 educators this fiscal year. “It shouldn’t be luck that an undocumented student gets what they need in school.”

Jess Morales Rocketto The Innovator 

@latinbowl/ Twitter 

Former Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton writes in her Times piece that “you couldn’t miss Jess Morales Rocketto during my 2016 campaign: she was the young woman standing on top of a cabinet, leading hundreds of staff and volunteers in a rousing chant. After the election, she used her passion, digital savvy and activist experience to facilitate the protests that cropped up at airports across America. She joined the National Domestic Workers Alliance, tackling issues from economic justice to immigration reform. Faced with the crisis at the border, Jess helped lead efforts to reunite every child with their loved ones. And after witnessing the power of women’s activism, she helped launch Supermajority, an organization dedicated to gender equity. She is not only tireless—she is fearless.”

Silvia Caballero the Innovator 

Senior Time’s writer Jeffrey Kluger describes Caballero, microbiologist and immunologist, as a researcher determined to save lives. According to Kluger, Caballero graduated from Weill Cornell Medical College in 2009 eventually began to work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she developed a lab mouse with a gut that replicates the human systems infected by drug-resistant bugs. “She then turned the bodies of the mice against the invaders, discovering natural bacteria within the gut that could beat back the infection,” writes Kluger. “Now working for Vedanta Biosciences in Massachusetts, she heads the company’s multidrug-resistant organism decolonization program, whose goal is to do for people what Caballero did for the mice. Her treatment protocol could go into early trials in two years.”

Alexandra Rojas The Advocate 

Time / Twitter 

Writing about Alexandra Rojas, the executive director for Justice Democrats, TIME’s correspondent Charlotte Alter writes that “Rojas and her team recruit and train primary challengers—often young, working-class people of color—to unseat less progressive incumbents. In 2018, they helped elect what’s now known as the Squad: Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Now Rojas is working to turn that momentum into more electoral power by building a bench of young progressives in Congress. So far, her group has endorsed eight new candidates running for congressional seats in 2020, including 26-year-old immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who has already raised more than seven times Ocasio-Cortez’s 2017 total. “

Paula Jofré A Chilean Innovator  

As Kluger describes in a separate profile about Jofré,  the Chilean researcher believes humans have a lot in common with the stars. “The sun and other stars are a lot like people: they’re born, they age, and they die. Oh, and they have relatives,” writes Kluger. “Jofré, of Diego Portales University in Chile, had along with anthropologist Robert Foley of the University of Cambridge when the two began musing that stars birthed in particular parts of the universe could be elementally related because they condense out of the same interstellar clouds. Since then, they have studied the chemical spectra of the sun and 21 other local stars, and indeed found the equivalent of genetic connections and even a family tree. With trillions more stars across the universe, there are a lot more ancestral connections to be made.”