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.
This year, the focus is on the significant strides of Hispanics in the economic, political and social growth of the United States under the theme “Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power and Progress in America.”
An example of someone manifesting these themes is the Co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association, Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta, one of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century and a leader of the Chicano civil rights movement.
Born on April 10, 1930, in Dawson, N.M., Huerta was the second of three children of Alicia and Juan Fernandez. Huerta moved to Stockton, CA where her mother Alicia’s community activism and compassionate treatment of workers greatly influenced Dolores and shaped her view on civil rights.
In her early 20s, Huerta received a teaching degree from the University of the Pacific’s Delta College. Huerta briefly taught school in the 1950s, but seeing so many hungry farm children coming to school, she thought she could do more to help them by organizing farmers and farm workers.
In 1955, Huerta began her career as an activist when she co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), which led voter registration drives and fought for economic improvements for Hispanics. She also founded the Agricultural Workers Association. Through a CSO associate, Huerta met activist César Chávez, with whom she shared an interest in organizing farm workers. In 1962, Huerta and Chávez founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), the predecessor of the United Farm Workers’ Union (UFW), which was formed three years later. Huerta served as UFW vice president until 1999.
The recipient of many honors, Huerta received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. As of 2015, she was a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America, and the President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.