Jessie Lopez De La Cruz

American Farm Labor Activist

Jessie Lopez De La Cruz (1919 – September 2, 2013) was a Chicana farm worker, the first female recruiter for the UFW, an organizer and participant in UFW strikes, a community organizer, a working mother, and a delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

Quotes edit

"Will the Family Farm Survive?" (1975) edit

July 17, 1975 – Joint Hearing before the Select Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, US Senate, Washington DC

  • Many of these farmworkers...lived along with all farmworkers at labor camps and when growers were asked to raise the wages of farmworkers to 75 cents an hour, they said they could not afford the camps anymore, so they tore them down after we asked them to please repair them so ewe could live as human beings, one of these growers bring Mr. Russell Giffen, the other being Mr. Anderson Crayton, and all of the big growers around in Fresno County.
  • When we asked for land, they tell us, why? Why should farmworkers want land? They are not farmers. But the true farmer is the one that works the land, and this is the farmworker, if it was not for the farmworker, there would not be any vegetables of fruits or anything on your table without the farmworkers.
  • when the canals were built out there, we were looking at it as a future for the farmworkers to form our family farms, but the big growers would look at the water and instead of seeing people and family farms, they were looking at dollar signs.
  • Many of the farmworking families are living in the most miserable places available for human beings. It is not fit for human beings. They live out in the slums in crowded houses, a small house for too large families. They sleep on the floor. During the day they are forced outdoors because there is no room in those houses, so they are left free to roam the streets. So, where does the crime come from if not young adults out in the streets until about the middle of the night because they cannot come home because it is to crowded, and it is too noisy.
  • what some agencies are doing, they are hiring people to investigate crime while they should be using this money to put there families to work where they can support their families
  • The people that are rich, that have the money, get more money without doing anything. They do not work at all.
  • we need a change. We need a change for social justice
  • when I got to thinking about how I was forced to live, it is a sad thing, but now I am working for a brighter future for my children and myself.

Oral History (1980) edit

In American Women Activists' Writings: An Anthology, 1637-2002

  • Out in the fields there were never any restrooms. We had to go eight or ten hours without relief. If there wasn't brush or a little ditch, we were forced to wait until we got home!
  • These big growers have a lot of money because we earned all that money for them. Because of our sweat and our labor that we put on the land.
  • [L]ate one night in 1962, there was a knock at the door and there were three men. One of them was Cesar Chavez. And the next thing I knew, they were sitting around our table talking about a union...Cesar said, "The women have to be involved. They're the ones working out in the fields with their husbands. If you can take the women out to the fields, you can certainly take them to meetings." So I sat up straight and said to myself, "That's what I want!"
  • When I became involved with the union, I felt I had to get other women involved. Women have been behind men all the time, always. Just waiting to see what the men decide to do, and tell us what to do. In my sister-in-law and brother-in-law's families, the women do a lot of shouting and cussing and they get slapped around. But that's not standing up for what you believe in. It's just trying to boss and not knowing how. I'd hear them scolding their kids and fighting their husbands and I'd say, "Gosh! Why don't you go after the people that have you living like this? Why don't you go after the growers that have you tired from working out in the fields at low wages and keep us poor all the time? Let's go after them! They're the cause of our misery!" Then I would say we had to take part in the things going on around us. "Women can no longer be taken for granted-that we're just going to stay home and do the cooking and cleaning. It's way past the time when our husbands could say, 'You stay home! You have to take care of the children! You have to do as I say!"" Then some women I spoke to started attending the union meetings, and later they were out on the picket lines.
  • I said, "Well! Do you think we should be putting up with this in this modern age? You know, we're not back in the twenties. We can stand up! We can talk back! It's not like when I was a little kid and my grandmother used to say, 'You have to especially respect the Anglos,' 'Yessir,' 'Yes, Ma'am!' That's over. This country is very rich, and we want a share of the money these growers make of our sweat and our work by exploiting us and our children!"
  • It was very hard being a woman organizer. Many of our people my age and older were raised with the old customs in Mexico: where the husband rules, he is king of his house. The wife obeys, and the children, too. So when we first started it was very, very hard. Men gave us the most trouble-neighbors there in Parlier! They were for the union but they were not taking orders from women, they said.
  • At another place, in Kern County, we were sprayed with pesticides. They would come out there with their sprayers and spray us on the picket lines.
  • Our demands were met, but it was hard bargaining. At one point, one of the Christian Brothers' lawyers said, "Well, sister, it sounds to me like you're asking for the moon for these people." Dolores Huerta came back, "Brother, I'm not asking for the moon for the farmworkers. All we want is just a little ray of sunshine for them!" Oh, that sounded beautiful!
  • I became involved in many of the activities in the community-school board meetings, city council meetings, everything that I could get into. For example, I began fighting for bilingual education in Parlier, went to a lot of meetings about it and spoke about it.
  • Being a migrant worker I changed schools about every three to four weeks. As soon as one crop was picked, we went on to the next one. I'd go to school for about a week or two, then I was transferred. Every time we transferred I had a pain in my stomach, I was shaking, scared to go to school. This is why I began fighting for bilingual education. I didn't want what happened to me to happen to the little children in Parlier whose parents couldn't speak English.
  • Parlier is over eighty-five percent Chicano, yet during that time there were no Chicanos on the school board, on the police force, nowhere. Now it's changed; we fought to get a Chicano mayor and officials.
  • We had Senate hearings at the Convention Center in Fresno. There were hundreds of people listening. A man I know comes to me and says, "Jessie, you're next." He'd been going to speak, but he said we wanted me to speak in his place. I started in Spanish, and the senators were looking at each other, you know, saying, "What's going on?" So then I said, "Now, for the benefit of those who can't speak Spanish, I'll translate. They tell us there's no money for food stamps for poor people. But if there is enough to fight a war in Vietnam, and if there is money enough for Governor Reagan's wife to buy a three-thousand-dollar dress for the Inauguration Ball, there should be money enough to feed these people. The nutrition experts say surplus food is full of vitamins. I've taken a look at that food, this cornmeal, and I've seen them come up and down. But you know, we don't call them vitamins, we call them weevils!" Everybody began laughing and whistling and shouting. In the end, we finally got food stamps for the people in Fresno County.
  • Sometimes I'd just stop to think: what if our parents had done what we were doing now? My grandparents were poor. They were humble. They never learned to speak English. They felt God meant them to be poor. It was against their religion to fight. I remember there was a huge policeman named Marcos, when I was a child, who used to go around on a horse. My grandmother would say, "Here comes Marcos," and we just grew up thinking, "He's law and order." But during the strikes I stood up to them. They'd come up to arrest me and I'd say, "O.K., here I come if you want. Arrest me!"

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