Luchadora Del Siglo: Spotlight on Dolores Huerta

I can remember the first time I personally related to someone in history class. I was sitting in the back of a classroom, and the image of the woman projected on the screen in front of me resonated. Her outfit was casual and her face was set with a gleam of determination, the same hard-working expression everyone in my family wore.

Dolores Huerta cofounded the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez in 1962, fighting for better conditions, aid for dependent families and disability insurance for the vulnerable community that harvests the bulk of our nation’s fresh fruit and vegetable supply. Along with Chavez, Dolores put a public face on the farm workers’ movement, appealing to Americans personally as she asked them to boycott grapes until better working conditions could be established. The boycott prompted the entire California grape industry to sign the first ever three-year contract with workers.

Over the years, Huerta has not only advocated relentlessly for national legislation protecting various low-income communities, but she’s also provided a tremendous symbol of personal transformation for Mexican-American women. After initially dismissing the women’s movement as middle-class, Huerta went on to cofound the Feminist Majority Foundation in 1987. Throughout the years, she’s continued to epitomize both social change and reinvention, forming her own Dolores Huerta Foundation and even taking on the fight for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Californians. Somehow, over the years she still found the time to mother 11 children and maintain a busy speaking schedule to this day. In time for Hispanic Heritage month, we honor this fabulosa as one of our living legends.

by Michelle Herrera Mulligan