Farmworker strike and march to be celebrated at Starr County campus

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Historical marker to honor 1966 farmworker strike

Texas Border Business

McAllen, TEXAS – In June 1966, more than 700 farmworkers in Rio Grande City went on strike at the height of melon season demanding a fair minimum wage and better working conditions.

Uniting under the banner of the Independent Workers Association, farmworkers at the time would picket for three months under harsh oppression and retaliation as the strike brought together religious leaders, labor unions, and the public in support of workers’ demands.  

Now, nearly 54 years later, the Texas Historical Commission will memorialize the strike, which culminated in Austin when César Chávez addressed more than 10,000 supporters on Labor Day in Zilker Park.   

South Texas College invites media and the public to join lawmakers, STC Starr County staff and faculty, and community leaders for the unveiling of a Texas Historical Commission-designated historical marker honoring the farmworker strike and march in 1966.

The event will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31 at South Texas College’s Starr County Campus in Building F, the former library, in Rio Grande City. U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, will be the guest speaker at the unveiling.

“The Official Texas Historical Marker program helps bring attention to community treasures and the importance of their preservation,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the THC. “Awareness and education are among the best ways to guarantee the preservation of our state’s history. This designation is a tool that will increase public awareness of important cultural resources.”

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The names of leaders will be displayed on an adjacent plaque. The movement that was coordinated with the assistance of Eugene Nelson, an associate of César Chávez, resulted in unified support from religious institutions, civil rights workers and the general public.

The monument is a result of two years of work completed by Starr County Historical Foundation and the Starr Country Industrial Foundation led by STC Board Member Rose Benavidez. 

“Having South Texas College (STC) be the location for these markers is poignant, since we were built on what used to be melon fields,” Benavidez said. “It tells the story of our people who have always been willing to work hard for a better life and fight for what is right.”

Who: U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, STC Trustee Rose Benavidez

What: Unveiling of a Texas Historical Commission-designated historical marker honoring the Starr County farmworker strike and march in 1966.

When: 11 a.m., Friday, Jan. 31, 2020

Where: STC Starr County Campus, Building F (Former library), 142 FM 3167 Rio Grande City, Texas

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