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

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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

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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… 

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Sí se puede… yes we can. Wow.

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Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

Things That Matter

Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

Every day, California farmworkers worry that the pandemic plowing through agricultural hubs will catch them and kill them. They also worry that not working will kill them. Now, there is further evidence that their worries are grounded in reality.

A recent survey – the Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) – points out the grim reality this vulnerable community faces as they work to support the nation’s ongoing need for food services.

California’s farmworker community – now considered essential – is being hit hard by the Coronavirus.

California’s agricultural communities have been hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic. From Imperial County along the U.S.-Mexico border to Fresno County in the Central Valley, these counties are also home to large migrant communities who are considered ‘essential workers’ as they work California’s farms and ranches.

As new details emerge, a grim picture of the virus among farmworkers is emerging. The Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) reinforces the dire warnings that farmworker advocacy organizations made when the coronavirus lockdowns began: The least protected essential workers in the country, toiling under environmental conditions like excessive heat, pollution and dust, are being devastated by the coronavirus, directly and indirectly. 

Now, five months into the pandemic, infection rates are spiking. Fresno County is experiencing 435 cases for every 100,000 residents; in Tulare it’s 472 and in Merced it’s 564. The statewide average: 269.

Though county figures say about 31% of overall cases are in the Latino community, some on the front lines estimate that up to 70% of cases from the recent spike have hit in that demographic, in a region where they account for about 42% of the population, according to census figures. Experts agree that official case counts across the state may be low because of testing problems.

And experts agree that fighting Covid-19 in the Central Valley could be an uphill battle. Many farmworkers live in crowded, dorm-like buildings. And thanks to a hostile government, many migrants are fearful of seeking any sort of medical or legal or financial help. Many of the people most at risk do not speak English and are traditionally hard for government to reach. Therefore, packing plants have emerged as coronavirus clusters in parts of the state.

The state is struggling to get a hold on the outbreak but officials have launched a new program they hope will have an impact.

The recent spike in infection rates within the Central Valley has drawn national attention, and now seems to have the attention of Gov. Gavin Newsom. His administration is dispatching three of his Coronavirus ‘strike teams’ to the region to help local officials track cases of Covid-19, inspect workplaces, quarantine the sick, and ramp up testing within vulnerable groups.

Each team, consisting of about a dozen experts on health, housing, public outreach, agriculture and other fields, will try to contain an alarming spread through the region. Much of their work will focus on the San Joaquin Valley, where agricultural fields and crowded food-processing plants have become fertile ground for the virus.

“If you asked me today what our biggest area of concern in a state as large as ours, it is indeed the Central Valley,” Newsom said recently in announcing the deployment. “We need to do more for our agricultural and farmworkers.”

In addition to the strike team, the state is allocating $52 million in federal money to help improve testing and contact tracing within the valley. It’s also spending $6 million in private donations to buy food and other basics for low-income Valley residents whose livelihoods have been threatened by the pandemic.

But for many farmworkers, despite the risk, they have little choice but to continue to work.

Credit: Brent Stirton / Getty Images

California’s farmworkers have long been one of the state’s most vulnerable communities. Now that the pandemic has ravaged the state’s economy, migrant farmworkers are considered ‘essential workers’ and are exempt from many of the protective lockdown orders, forcing them to risk their health while at work.

Meanwhile, the collapse of food service (restaurants and institutions) has le to the shutdown of farms across the state and roughly 20% of farm jobs have been cut – that amounts to nearly 100,000 workers. Those who are still working have largely seen their hours cut. So for many, they have little choice but to return to a dangerous job or risk juggling bills and going hungry.

On the job, however, workers lack control of their own safety. Fewer than half of those surveyed said they had received masks from their employers. Even among those who had, they had received them once or a couple of times. (Farmworkers generally wear face coverings to protect themselves from pesticide dust, dirt and the sun. More than 95 percent of those surveyed said they are masked in the fields.) 

Social distancing is still an idea, not a reality, for many of those surveyed. In some cases, farmworkers who asked for better protections, such as more distancing in the fields, or hand sanitizer, have faced retaliation. Crew bosses have punished them by cutting their hours or days, advocates said. 

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Yalitza Aparicio Says She’s Waiting For A Role That Won’t Pigeonhole ‘Because of Appearance”

Entertainment

Yalitza Aparicio Says She’s Waiting For A Role That Won’t Pigeonhole ‘Because of Appearance”

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty

Since the start of her acting career, Oaxacan actress Yalitza Aparicio has been sure to see that her work helps uphold her community. While many actors on the rise tend to focus on racking up more acting roles and fame, Aparicio has been much more vocal about her desire to focus on her advocacy and work for organizations like Cine Too. What’s more, ensuring that she secures proper representation for Indigenous people like herself.

While Aparicio first made headlines and won our hearts with her performance in the 2018 film Roma the Indigenous actress has yet to appear in another role on screen.

It turns out, it isn’t for a lack of offers.

Speaking with Indie Wire about her career, Aparicio has said that she is taking her time to find a role that properly represents her and her community.

“My objective in my career is to give visibility to all of us who have been kept in the dark for so long,” Aparicio claimed in a recent interview with IndieWire. “The acting projects I’m working on are moving slowly because I’m putting all my efforts in not being pigeonholed because of my appearance.”

Aparicio, who is 26-years-old, was born in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, rocketed to fame when she took on the role of Cleo in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 movie Roma. The film, which was nominated for various Academy Awards followed Aparicio as Cleo a housekeeper who works in a wealthy household in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma. Aparicio’s role brought her praise not just for her skills but for her role in solidifying a much-needed portrayal of Mexico’s Indigenous community.

Still, despite the praise and fame, the role brought her, Aparicio is adamant that her next role will be something greater.

“I come from a community where there’s no movie theater, and as a consequence, the population — especially the children that grow up in those communities — has less of an interest in the cinematic arts. [Cine Too] has the possibility to reach these children and provide an opportunity to instill in them the passion for cinema and teach them about this art form,” she explained in her interview. “I’m conscious that every step I take may open doors for someone else and at the same time it’s an opportunity for society to realize we are part of it and that we are here,”

In her interview, Aparicio points out that while she is very aware that Indigenous filmmakers and allies “have a complicated job because these things can’t be changed overnight,” she is still pushing for real change.

“Wherever I go, I’ll always be proudly representing our Indigenous communities,” she asserted. “We can show people that the only limits are within us.”

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