IT’S HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH (SEPTEMBER 15th – OCTOBER 15th)

Opinion
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hilbert Morales
EL OBSERVADOR

“Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America.”

“The observation started as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson (1968); was expanded by President Ronald Reagan (1988) to cover a 30-day period starting September 15 and ending October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.”

“The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for 5 Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30-day period.” (Source: google Hispanic Heritage Month)

It was entirely fitting that this 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month began with the traditional Mexican Flag raising ceremony at San Jose City Hall to celebrate ‘el Grito’ (the war cry) which began the revolt against Spain with the outcome that Mexico became an independent sovereign nation (September 16, 182X). Mayor Sam Liccardo and Vice-Mayor Magdalena Carrasco are able to trace their family histories back to Spain (Liccardo) and Mexico (Carrasco). And today, five of ten San Jose City Council Districts have Latino elected officials representing their communities: Sergio Jimenez (D2); Raul Peralez (D3); Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco (D5); Sylvia Arenas (D7) and Donald Rocha (D9).

 

Also, it was very fitting that La Raza Historical Society of Santa Clara Valley sponsored its ‘first time ever’ fund-raiser event which began at the ‘Ernesto Galarza Memorial Table’ located on ‘El Paseo’ pedestrian walkway by the Fairmont Hotel on Market Street. It was Galarza’s research and use of the written word as weapons which established the exploitive labor practices of Campesinos (farm workers) by agri-businesses.

“Ernesto Galarza (August 15, 1905–June 22, 1984) was a Mexican-American labor activist, professor, poet, writer, and key figure in the history of immigrant farm worker organization in California.”

“Born in Jalcocotan, near Tepic in the Mexican state of Nayarit, Galarza immigrated with his mother and two uncles to Sacramento, California. As recalled in his autobiography, Barrio Boy, the young Galarza successfully navigated the cultural differences in the public-school system, received a scholarship to Occidental College, LA, and then went on to earn a master’s degree in history at Stanford University (1929).”

“Galarza worked with the Pan-American Union (now the Organization of American States) in Washington D.C. (1936-1947) publishing analyses on educational, labor and infrastructure issues in Latin America. In 1947, he completed his doctoral dissertation on the electricity industry in Mexico and earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University.”

“Galarza worked as a labor organizer and a key leader in laying the groundwork for the emergence in California of the farm labor movement. National Farm Labor Union. Galarza began organizing farm workers in California in 1948 as research and education director of the American Federation of Labor’s short-lived National Farm Labor Union.”

“Galarza organized a 1947 strike against the DiGiorgio Corporation in Arvin, California that lasted 30 months, and entangled the company and the union in suits and counter-suits for the following 15 years. Altogether between 1948 and 1959, Galarza and the union initiated some twenty strikes and labor actions.”

“Although primarily an intellectual and scholar whose weapons were words (and concepts), Galarza initially played an activist’s role with the AFL as the leader of several strikes. But he was completely thwarted by the bracero program and so abandoned the union leader’s weapon of direct economic action for the intellectual’s weapon of words in hopes of killing the program.”

“A prolific writer, Galarza’s best-known work is Merchants of Labor (1964), an exposé of the abuses within the Bracero Program. The book was instrumental in the ending of the program, which in turn opened the door for Cesar Chavez to begin unionizing immigrant farmworkers in 1965.”

“In 1956 Galarza was awarded the Bolivian Order of the Condor of the Andes.”. The Ernesto Galarza Applied Research Center at the University of California Riverside and other California elementary and secondary schools bear his name. His many books include:

-Barrio Boy, 1971

-Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story, 1964

-Spiders in the House and Workers in the Field, 1970

(source: google Ernesto Galarza)

Plan to read one of these Galarza books to experience a feeling for that era.

So, it was here in San Jose, CA that Cesar E. Chavez learned much about organizing while employed at CSO (Community Services Organization), San Jose, CA. Cesar successfully accomplished the first farmworker’s union organization with the collaborative support of Philippine farm workers. The outcome is today’s United Farm Workers of America, Delano, CA.

La Raza Historical Society’s event attracted 100+ individuals who listened to SJSU’s Professor Mora-Torres and Fernando Zazueta, Esq., President of this historical society, eloquently interpret the historical significance of the several locations. The ‘Coiled Aztec Serpent’ site (Quetzalcoatl) was the second site visited. However, the third site was a stone marker located in Cesar Chavez Plaza opposite the Bank of America branch (Park & Market Street). This marker is located on the line which separated, in years past, the White Anglo community whose events were conducted on First Street. The Mexican Community’s businesses, theaters, dance halls and events were conducted along Market Street prior to the 1950’s. To the south and west from this marker all the way to the Guadalupe River were located the original Barrio homes where the Mexican community resided.

That community was ‘relocated’ using eminent domain during 1980’s by the Redevelopment Agency, City of San Jose, CA. That area is now occupied by Adobe, the Center for Performing Arts, banks and other high rise professional buildings along Almaden Blvd.

The Latino community may now contribute their family histories, volunteer time and donate supportive treasure to La Raza Historical Society of Santa Clara Valley, convened by Ramon J. Martinez, Ph.D., whose founding members include several SJSU academics who, as founders, were recognized during the reception at the Mezcal Restaurant, 25 West San Fernando Street following the last site visited which was the San Jose Cathedral (Catholic). Its mission is to preserve (document) the Mexican historical involvements which were part of several social and economic transitions…agricultural (the Valley of the Heart’s Delight); industrial (packing houses such as Del Monte); to today’s Silicon Valley. Understand that without these documented records, Latino developmental involvement in this Santa Clara valley will not exist when future historians do their searches.

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