The Power of the Hispanic Voice: Dolores Huerta talks with ASU about rural issues

(05-31-2016)

Article by Victoria Martinez

casa skype interview with Dr. Huerta on screen

This is the first year the Cultural Awareness and Student Achievement (CASA) The wonder of technology brought Dolores Huerta to Adams State University via Skype. This power-house of a woman shared her knowledge, experience, ideas, and encouragement with students, staff, faculty, and San Luis Valley residents.

Dr. Dolores Huerta was essentially Cesar Chavez's right hand woman during the Chicano Movement for farm worker's rights. She went on to become the Founder and President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. She now travels the country engaging in campaigns and influencing legislation that supports equality and defends civil rights. In 2012, President Obama bestowed Huerta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. She also was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in March 2013. If that wasn't impressive enough she also holds 9 Honorary Doctorates from Universities throughout the United States.

On May 6, in McDaniel Hall, Huerta poetically spoke-up to defend rural activism and work happening locally. For example during her conversation with attendees she mentioned the work to expand the Rio Grande del Norte Monument. She stated, "President Obama has really been in the forefront of preserving as much of our federal land as we can, so we can preserve it for future generations. Federal lands should not be used for commercial enterprise, or commercial purposes and taken away from us, the tax payers."

The event was made possible by generous support from the Unidos Grants (donated by ASU faculty), the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, Nielsen Library, and ASU's Cultural Awareness and Student Achievement Center.

In another moment during the conversation she touched on the importance of Hispanics utilizing their right to vote. She encouraged everyone in the audience to make phone calls, go door to door, talk to their neighbors, and let their voice be heard. The importance of voting into office the right people who will defend minorities, care about environmental issues, and take action, was emphasized greatly. She didn't state outright who she planned to vote for in the 2016 election, however she talked very highly about Hilary Clinton. She stated that Clinton has met face-to-face with farm workers and their families several times in her career, first as a young lawyer in Texas, again during her husband's presidency, then when she was running her own campaign in 2008. Huerta stated: "She's always had that connection since she was a young women to farm worker families and I think that's why she has such a strong support from the Latino community."

To conclude the evening, Huerta took questions from the audience. An excited community supporter, Enrique Salcedo, stood up and thanked Huerta on behalf of his father for her donation of settlement funds used to help California farm workers in his home town. Huerta had received this settlement from the city of San Francisco after nearly losing her life. She had been beaten by San Francisco police at a rally where she protesting the policies of then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush; she suffered six broken ribs and a ruptured spleen during the altercation with police in 1988. The emotional connection between Huerta and Salcedo in that brief moment was powerful. "Saludos a tu papa," she told him.

To many in the audience it was an honor to just be in this great woman's presence. ASU was happy to host this event with Huerta while we still have her with us on this planet.