Memorial Human Rights Awards Ceremony
Speech of acceptance by Carlos Marentes
Director of Sin Fronteras Organizing Project
September 27, 1997
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would also like to express my most sincere gratitude to the
Institute for Policy Studies and the 1997 Letelier-Moffitt Awards
Selection Committee, for honoring Sin Fronteras and our work.
Thanks also to our family and to all our friends who are with
us this beautiful evening.
And thanks Congressmen Bonior, you are a true representative
of the working class of America.
This is a very special occasion. Twenty years ago, Alicia and
I joined the farm labor movement. It was the month of June of
1977, I remember it like if it was yesterday, when we decided
to help a small but very struggling organization, the Texas Farm
Workers Union (TFW). The TFW carried out a 1,500-mile-82-day
march, from Austin to Washington, D.C., to call attention to
the plight of the agricultural workers of South Texas. We marched
through the South and learned about racism and inequality, but
also about the civil rights movement. The march was called the
" The Texas Farmworkers March for Human Rights." The
TFW was asking for one and a basic right, the right to organize.
We arrived in September, on "Labor Day" of 1977. But
the President of the United States, did not meet with the group
of farmworkers because he was too busy meeting with a group of
Latin American "dignitaries" which included Augusto
Pinochet, Anastacio Somoza and other sinister figures.
Today, the farmworkers continue to be the only sector of the
working class that lacks the sacred right to organize. Without
this right, the 4.2 million men, women and children who work
in the fields of America are unable to change the current agricultural
system of oppression and exploitation.
But the lack of collective bargaining rights is not the only
responsible for the terrible situation of the farmworkers in
this country. We have to place responsibilities on a handful
of greedy agricultural and food corporations which are dedicated
in body and soul to producing cheap products to satisfy the consumer
and make profits despite the brutal exploitation in the fields.
And let's also take into account the public sector. Bad political
and economic laws and actions have increased the suffering of
the agricultural labor force. Specifically, I am referring to
the so-called free trade agreements, which only benefit the rich,
welfare reform that punishes the victims of our economic system
and the current repressive immigration policies.
Also at fault is the lack of historic memory on the part of our
society. Hardly anyone remembers that during World War II, almost
5 million Mexicans came to this country to produce the food needed
by this nation to defeat fascism.
But the problem is also beyond our borders. As long as the people
of the rural communities of México and the rest of Latin
America continue to lose the ability to grow their own food and
survive in their own land, we will continue to see the rapid
deterioration of the quality of life for the agricultural workers
of this country. And this deterioration affects society as a
Fortunately, there is also a rapidly growing farm labor movement
in this country and a heroic peasant movement south of the border.
Despite the tragic current situation in the fields, there is
faith and hope.
In February of 1983, we formed Sin Fronteras Organizing Project,
with the objective of attempting to organize the agricultural
workers of the U.S.-México border. Once organized, they
will be able to improve their wages and working conditions.
We still have a long way to go, but we have also made some gains
and we are very proud of our accomplishments. Our struggle has
involved many farmworkers and many friends and sympathizers,
we share with all of them this award.
We appreciate with all our hearts this significant recognition.
Congratulations to our hermanas and hermanos from Alianza Cívica
and praise to Reverend Mac Jones. We admire and respect the Institute
of Policy Studies and its important work. We honor Orlando Letelier
and Ronni Moffitt and reaffirm our commitment to bring dignity
to the border agricultural workers. We join the colleagues, the
friends and the relatives of Orlando and Ronni and reaffirm our
commitment to the cause of human rights.
Page| |Table of Contents| |Information and Up-dates|
|Información de Interés|