I was 12 when I first meet Cesar Chavez. We were working in Delano, picking table grapes. I remember going to his headquaters with my parents. I was a tipical kid, full of energy, running from outside to inside and anyway you call it. There were several of us always doig the same thing. Cesar would come out there and make us all sit and behave. But you know kids, that didn’t work for long. His headquarters were always busy and lots of people going in and out, farmers and farmworkers.
Just to give you a brief history of the time before I meet or even knew who Cesar Chavez was. We were very poor, working in the fields all hours of the day and all types of weather. I am the 6th of 8 children, and I can remember having to take care of my youngest brother, who is 3 years young them me. My earliest memory is working along side my parents, me taking care of my brother who was in a box, and I had another box that I would fill with cotton then empty in my fathers bag. No water in the field, unless it was brought by us and no restrooms. Females would have to walk a distance away, to hide or hold it. I remember farmers and labor contractors getting angry when they would see a woman/girl walking to go to the restroom.
We traveled all the time, following the crop in California. We moved from Delano to Colusa, CA. When I was 6 we started going to a labor camp in Gilroy, up a mountain about 8-10 miles out of Gilroy. There were 7 houses in a row. One was about the size of 3 10x10 rooms, the other 6 were about 8x10, one room. We always got the small house. We had blankets all over the floor and the stove was 2 burners, and fuel was a bottle of karosien. It had a small indoor sink, with only cold water. We had an outhouse in the middle of the houses for a restroom, used by all and at the end of the houses was the showers. A small metal building, pipes for shower heads. At about 9 years old I working in Gilroy with my family picking plums. Beside us was an even larger family with the majority girls. Sometime during the morning, the father came with the most amazing thing I had ever seen. A portable restroom. We were all amazed. Even the adults. This man had made 4 walls of burlap sack materal to hide whoever was inside and in the middle was a 5 gallon can. We all got in line to use it, adults and children.
Another memory was when I was about 12 and we worked in Delano. We were working in the grapes. First in suckering and then in picking. There would be the tractor on the side of you spraying insecticide and sometimes there would be the tractor and the cropduster plane spraying. That year I got posioned 2 times and the following year once. Going to emergency all 3 times. To this day there is no record of my emergency visits.
I am so happy that Cesar Chavez thought of us and the hardship we went thur. I can say more, but I will stop there.
For many years I thought Cesar Chavez was a mean man and he probably was to a young, full of energy child. But looking back over the years, he was a mericile worker to those working in the heat, rain and ice, with no voice.