Hundreds march downtown for 50th anniversary of 1966 farm workers strike

Farm Workers March Through San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO -- On Labor Day 50 years ago, Cesar Chavez led a march from the Texas-Mexico border through San Antonio to Austin. 

He led thousands in the fight for better wages for farm workers. 

San Antonians held a commemorative march Monday morning to mark the anniversary.

"This really recognizes the importance of preserving our history, our culture, and passing this education to the next generation," said Ernest J. Martinez, Chairman of the Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Foundation Scholarship Fund.

Activists, community leaders, and volunteers attended mass at San Fernando Cathedral Monday morning before marching along the streets of downtown San Antonio.

"Just to pay homage and to pay respect for what they all did 50 years ago," said Patrick Rodriguez, Vice President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 76.

On Labor Day 1966, more than 15,000 melon farmers, led by union leader and activist Cesar Chavez, marched 400 miles from Starr County on the border to Austin in the middle of watermelon harvest. Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association which later became the United Farm Workers union.

"[Chavez] knew there were many people who persevered against tremendous odds and made great contributions like the strikers and marchers of 1966 who left the Rio Grande Valley and marched up to Austin. We're here to commemorate their legacy and then recommit ourselves to the work that still needs to be done," said Paul Chavez, President of the Cesar Chavez foundation, and son of the labor leader.

The melon strikers marched to the capital to ask the governor to raise their wages from 40 cents to the federal minimum wage of $1.25. The march lasted roughly 90 days.

"Cesar Chavez joined these hundreds of poor people who put food on our tables but could barely earn enough to put food on their own tables. So we honor them today,"  Congressman Lloyd Doggett said.

Following the March was an assembly at Milam Park where crowds celebrated what activists have achieved, and how far they still have to go.

"There is never a finish line in any struggle. There is a lot to do. There is a lot of work ahead of us," said Victor San Miguel of the Carnalismo Brown Berets.

During the Labor Day strike of 1966, workers were brought in from Mexico to fill the void in the watermelon fields. Activists continue to fight for better wages for farmers and better-working conditions.

(© 2016 KENS)


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