On June 1, 1966, hundreds of farm workers who toiled the melon fields of Rio Grande City in inhumane working conditions, and for servitude wages, went on strike. They organized the Independent Workers Union, affiliated with César Chávez’s United Farmworkers Union, and picketed for months under harsh conditions of oppression and harassment by the Texas Rangers, who sided with the growers.
On July 4, 1966, the strikers, along with their families and allies, marched through the “Valley of Fear” to expose these injustices and to demand that Governor Connally call a special session of the Legislature to consider a minimum wage bill of $1.25 an hour.
At the end of the 490-mile trek from Rio Grande City to Austin, the mach was 10,000 people strong, bringing broad awareness to the struggles of impoverished farm workers, and igniting the Chicano movement in Texas. The melon workers contested the repressive socio-political and institutional forces of the era and, despite intimidation, beatings, arrests and violence against them, refused to be silent. They stayed the course, and left us a political and social harvest, La Cosecha, that we now reap. The legacies upon which we now build.
This event may be of particular interest to the following:
- Historians and other scholars who research, study and write about labor in the context of Mexican American political, legal, social, cultural, and women's history; or those documenting the 1966 Farm Workers Strike and March or researching contemporary issues related to these topics of study.
- Community-based organizations, organizers and activists, past and present, to examine, analyze and discuss the relationship between the politics and struggle then and now.
- Faith-based organizations, churches and faith leaders dedicated to social justice, labor issues and activism within Mexican American communities past and present.
- Artists, musicians, cantantes, poets, writers, photographers, performers and other artists whose work reflects the legacies of farmworkers in movements for social change.
- Public officials, representatives of municipal and state governments invested in labor issues, community development, and historical/cultural preservation projects.
- Students, professors and educators, including public school teachers, administrators, librarians and counselors interested in learning about or implementing Mexican American Studies in the classroom.