EXPRESS NEWS: Farmworkers made history 50 years ago

Via the Express News

“Fifty years ago, Texas farmworkers demanding a minimum wage went on strike. Their subsequent march — along with supporters — from Rio Grande City to Austin to press these demands didn’t get that result.

They made history anyway.

They put Texas and the nation on notice that farmworkers — those who harvested what we ate — were due civil rights as well. A living wage is such a right.

This was 1966, two years after the Civil Rights Act. In a recent comment in this newspaper, Ed Sills of the AFL-CIO told the story of the march.

At the time, melon workers were paid 40 cents an hour for backbreaking work. No more, they said. They marched 490 miles to Austin, met on the way by then-Gov. John Connally, who told the marchers that he wouldn’t dignify their demands with a meeting in the Capitol.

Meanwhile, Texas Rangers and other Starr County law enforcement cracked down on the strikers, often brutally. Magdaleno Dimas suffered such a beating that his spine was curved out of shape and he suffered a concussion. This sparked the corrido “Los Rinches de Tejas.”

A U.S. district judge, ruling that Texas violated strikers’ rights, wrote, “It is difficult indeed for this Court to visualize two grown men colliding with each other so as to cause such injuries.” Di-mas and another man were severely beaten, and the Rangers said this was how their injuries occurred.

And here’s where history was made. In Allee vs. Medrano, the courts ended the use of public law enforcement as strikebreakers, what Texas did in effect. But the bigger trend was arguably the birth of the movement for Mexican-Americans rights generally in Texas and elsewhere.

On Monday, there will be a commemoration of the strike and the march, at 10 a.m. at Milam Park, 501 W. Commerce St.

It’s an event worth remembering.”

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