This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Starr County Melon Strike and March to Austin that sparked the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement in Texas.
During the summer months of 1966, a group of Starr County farmworkers and supporters launched a strike over harsh working conditions and microscopic pay in the fields of Texas. Their strike and march captured the attention of Texans of all backgrounds and inspired Texas Chicanos to stand up for dignity, respect, and recognition as full citizens.
As Mexican Americans, we value being treated with dignity and respect precisely because we know we don’t always receive that treatment. Past generations of Mexican-Americans, including our parents and grandparents, had to work hard, organize, and raise their voices to receive citizenship rights. Even now, political figures aim their attacks at “Mexicans” to gain national political influence, believing our community to be an easy target.
Too many of us don’t know our history, or have forgotten the struggles of our parents and grandparents. But when we forget, we can’t fully appreciate what we have gained as a people, and can’t draw on that history for inspiration and strength when we need it most.
Right now we need it. At a time when some politicians are calling for mass deportations and building senseless walls, it is important for us to remember our community’s legacy of resisting injustice and demanding what we have earned by our labors.
The 50th Anniversary of the 1966 Starr County Melon Strike and March to Austin is an opportunity to honor our heritage as Mexican Americans and remember the history that launched the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in Texas. The commemorative gathering will be a place to reconnect with our roots, listen to the stories of the strikers and marchers whose actions sparked a movement, and refuel for the work that lies ahead.
The commemoration will begin with an assembly with UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez at 9 AM at UTRGV’s ITT Courtyard, followed by a short march to Edinburg City Hall Courtyard, and finish with a program in Edinburg City Auditorium, where the 1966 strikers and marchers will be honored.
It is time that we remember our community’s history of struggle for dignity and respect, and honor the elders who paved the way for our own successes. Join the 50th Anniversary of the 1966 Melon Strike and March this Friday, September 9th in Edinburg at 9 AM.
Editor’s Note: In the main image accompanying this guest column, Texas farm workers are seen holding a rally in 1966 during the melon strike in Starr County. Photo courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library archives at Wayne State University.