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    Virgin of Guadalupe

    The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe served as an icon, symbol, and rallying point for farm workers in their fight to gain union representation and recognition of their rights. She is specifically a Mexican depiction of the Virgin Mary. Neither Spanish nor Indian, her darker features announce that she is a mestizo. She is a protector and saint of Mexico and a symbol of patriotism and nationalism. Cesar Chavez knew that the image had intense emotional appeal to the workers who were mostly of Mexican descent. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of t he United Farm Workers, said about the Virgin, "She is a symbol of faith, hope and leadership." Using the image of the Virgin was a powerful appeal to religion and history for most of the farm workers; indeed it seemed to say, "God and history are on our side."

    In September 1965, Cesar Chavez called a meeting of the National Farm Workers Association (predecessor of the United Farm Workers) at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Delano, just north of Bakersfield. The union unanimously voted to join Filipino grape pickers in a strike (huelga). When strikers were intentionally sprayed with pesticides by angry growers, Chavez organized a protest march from Delano to Sacramento. The pilgrimage (peregrinación) with the Virgin of Guadalupe banner leading the way started small but grew very large along the 340 mile route. After arriving in Sacramento on Easter Sunday, the marchers again met in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Sacramento.

    The original Virgin of Guadalupe banner carried in the march from Delano to Sacramento in 1966 is in the collections of the Labor Archives and Research Center. It is currently on loan to the National Chavez Center in Keene, California.

    Art and Artifacts from the Collections of the Labor Archives and Research Center

    Copyright © 2007 Labor Archives and Research Center | J. Paul Leonard Library | San Francisco State University
    Credits and Contacts | Last Updated January 17, 2006