It was the summer of 1973. I was 19 years old. My compadre did not speak good Spanish so I translated for him and we had a picket crew in the Lamont California area. After a few weeks a call came out for more organizers. I told my compadre that I had to go. He complained loudly that he needed me and how woulkd he be able to communuicate with his picket crew. I told him he woukld do fine because his people would find a way to communicate with him. I went on to work the Guimarra Farms huelga and was assigned my own pickett crew. It was comprised of only women and they named themselves “Las Leonas” and called me “el Charro Negro” because I would wear a black charro’s sombrero and black gavan. This was distintctive clotheing to wear in the southern San Joaquin Valley heat but it also got the “Dodge Boys’ ” attention when it came time for them to arrest pickett captains. I was arrested three times that summer during the Huelga. All those charges were dropped eventually because of the logistiscal problems it caused the Kern County courts to process all of us arrested during the Huelga.
Like so many others I marched for Naji Diefula’s funural from Delano to Forty Acres.
I stood watch as an honor guard at De La Rosa’s wake in Arvin and marched to the Sunset Cemetary and witnessed Joan Baez sing Amazing Grace for us.
I was invited to La Paz to attend the boycott organizational meetings and saw Cesar in his rocking chair while speakers gave us the rundown on how the national boycott would begin.
I picketted a Safeway in the LA area with my black funeral huelga flag and saw people understand our causa and walk away from Safeway, who, at that time, was actively opposing our struggle. All very headdy stuff for a 19 year old campesino from Lamont.
I hope I find some Leonas in Fresno this May.
Viva La Huelga. Viva Las Leonas de Guimarra. Viva Cesar Chavez. c/s