‘The day my life changed forever’
Hortensia Mata was one of the original 1965 strikers.
Back in 1965, I wasn’t aware and didn’t even know what a strike was. That is until the day that Gilbert Padilla came into the field where I worked one spring day in ’65. Gilbert Padilla was a young, tall, amiable man working for Cesar Chavez as an organizer. That day my life was changed forever, Gilbert opened our eyes to the many injustices we were living everyday.
Gilbert said, “There is going to be a meeting tonight at my house and Cesar Chavez will be there to show you how we can change things.” So that night we went to Gilbert’s home and started listening to what Cesar had to say. After listening to him speak in such a calm and decisive manner I made up my mind to go on strike as well. Cesar told us that it would be difficult and to not expect success right away. “In the end we will win,” he said.
Before I realized it, I was on strike as well. The hardships were tremendous, especially when we had nothing to eat. I would sit up all night sometimes just thinking about our house and even though it wasn’t very luxurious it was still my family’s home.
The fight in the fields was especially difficult because the police sided with the growers and every time we tried to put something together the police struck it down.
Fortunately for us we always had people to help us out any way they could.brought food to all the strikers in my crew, sometimes canned or a hot meal. Whatever it was we appreciated deeply. I am sure that if it hadn’t been for those people, I would have lost my faith.
By the time the San Francisco boycott came around in 1968, I was more determined than ever. I recall packing in a car with my other friends and co-workers and heading off to San Francisco to boycott the grapes up there. I believe that was the key to our success. Had we stayed in Delano no one would have been aware of our struggle. There wasn’t any media coverage in the Central Valley and we finally got the attention we deserved when we arrived in San Francisco.
. Suddenly, no one was buying grapes. We had the grape industry cornered. It was all a matter of time before we came to an agreement.
When the day finally came I was extremely proud of all the sacrifice I had made and had no regrets about everything I had to go through. What I will always remember is that united we can overcome any obstacle, including powerful companies and corporations.