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Dolores Huerta was a passionate person driven to fight for equality and change the lives of laborer workers. Her life, up until and after becoming an activist, certainly wasn’t easy. Huerta had to face the separation of her parents, discrimination at school, and many difficult struggles. Although Huerta had to confront a few tragedies, her hard work was rewarded. She received awards, co-founded and founded organizations, and significantly improved the lives of laborer workers.
Her parents, Juan Fernandez and Alicia Chavez, divorced when she was three years old. She ended up staying with her mother who had to “juggle jobs as a waitress and cannery worker,” according to Debra Michals. Her father was a farm worker and miner by trade. Despite the separation of her parents, they greatly influenced Dolores Huerta. Her father, Juan Fernandez, was a farm worker and miner, who worked his way up and became a state legislator. Her mother, Alicia Chavez, became a community activist. They helped influence Dolores into also becoming an activist.
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Discrimination and racism also impacted her. In her childhood education, one of her teachers who was “prejudiced against Hispanics,” accused Huerta of cheating because her papers seemed too well written (Debra Michals). In 1945, towards the end of World War II, her brother was savagely attacked because he was wearing a zoot suit. This started to open her eyes and bring awareness to what was going on in her surroundings.
Huerta was beaten by the police while protesting against Vice President George H.W. Bush, because he claimed that there was nothing wrong with using pesticides. In reality, pesticides cause farmers to suffer from wounds caused by chemicals. Her injuries were so severe that she ended up being hospitalized for weeks. Although these events made her life more challenging, they only encouraged her, as the best was yet to come.
During the 1940s-1960s, Braceros, Mexican laborers, had to endure long hours of work, dangerous working conditions, unauthorized deductions from their pay, and unsanitary housing. Therefore, in 1955, she officially started her career as an activist and co-founded the Community Service Organization. They led registration drives and fought for economic improvements for Hispanics. Dolores Huerta founded the Agricultural Worker Association. This organization fought to improve social and economic conditions for laborer workers.
In order to ensure that the braceros were getting better treatment, Huerta negotiated a contract with the grape growers and the UFWOC, to guarantee that the braceros would get higher wages and many other benefits previously denied to them. Huerta has founded, and co-founded organizations, and she’s even gotten injured for protesting, but Dolores Huerta didn’t stop fighting. Especially after noticing the harsh conditions the braceros had to face. “They didn’t have toilets in the fields, they didn’t have cold drinking water. They didn’t have rest periods,” Dolores Huerta stated. In 1975, Dolores Huerta helped create the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, becoming the first act in California to allow workers to barter for wages and working conditions. This was a huge accomplishment for the Chicano movement.
Eleanor Roosevelt noticed how devoted and passionate Dolores Huerta was to her cause, leading to her being awarded the Human Rights Award in 1998. All of her accomplishments are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
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