Delores Huerta is one of only six Latinas to have won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama presented her with the award in 2012 for her lifetime of social justice organizing to improve the lives of agricultural workers.
Delores was born in New Mexico in 1930. When her parents split up, she moved to California with her mother and sister. After high school Delores studied to become a elementary school teacher. However, once she started her career she became discouraged at the number of students who were barefoot and hungry. She decided she could do more good by working to improve their living conditions.
In 1962, community organizers Dolores Huerta and César Chávez founded the United Farm Workers. Using Gandhi’s principles of non-violence they created a movement that included a stable Union to fight for laborers rights. Mexican, Mexican-American, and Filipino workers were earning low wages, living in sub-par company housing and toiling in the fields with pesticides dropped from planes directly over them.
After protests alone were unsuccessful in changing the agribusiness practices, the UFW nationwide grape boycott brought the farm owners to the negotiation table. Dolores led the New York UFW organizing. She asked friends and relatives to take care of her 11 children so she could travel there. The boycott was extremely effective and with a lot of hard work it created a change in the power structure. The laborers were granted the right to bargain directly with the owners to discuss wages and conditions. After this success, César Chávez became a household name, but his co- founder’s did not.
César Chávez’ widow Helen accepted his Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, a year after his death. Huerta did not receive her award until eighteen years later.
For 40 years, Dolores fought to improve wages, give farm workers health care and safe working conditions. Huerta stayed positive, using the slogan she created,
“Sí, se puede.”
It can be done. We can do it. Yes we can.
Her superpowers include:
* visionary thinking
* selfless service
* indomitable spirit
In 2002, she began the Delores Huerta Foundation. She created it after she received the Puffin/Nation $100,000 prize for Creative Citizenship. I noticed on her website that several of her kids are involved, all grown up and ready to participate in social justice causes as they learned at rallies as children. The family is continuing to work to organize neighborhoods, improve schools and lift people out of poverty.
PBS Independent Lens has an excellent biopic, Delores, produced by Carlos Santana.
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! Olé! — Rebecca