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Sampling of Historical Sites at the Forty Acres and Delano
02/09/2009

At the Forty Acres

 

Gas station

Cesar Chavez spent 25 days fasting to rededicate the farm workers movement to nonviolence in February and March 1968 inside a tiny room off the corridor of the adobe-constructed service station facing Garces Highway. Daily mass was celebrated in the adjacent warehouse as well as outdoors, where farm workers established a tent city. It was here that U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy met briefly with Cesar on March 10, 1968, before driving to Memorial Park in Delano for an outdoor mass marking the breaking of the fast.

 

Union hall

This was where the 40th anniversary program was held on Sept. 17, 2005. It was also the scene for union and community meetings during the last years of the Delano Grape Strike, after the union relocated its offices from Albany Street in Delano. It was here that Delano-area table grape growers gathered to sign their first UFW contracts on July 29, 1970. John Giumarra Sr. held his hands up in mock surrender for the news cameras as Cesar Chavez looked on.

 

The field office

It housed the union hall and the UFW headquarters from 1968 until 1971, when the operation moved to La Paz. A small room in the northeast corner of the field office (with a single window facing east) was Cesar Chavez's office.

 

Paulo Agbayani Village

Agbayani Retirement Village was the farm workers movement's response to the plight of elderly and displaced Filipino farm workers. Most immigrated from the Philippines as young men in the 1920s and '30s. No Filipino women were allowed and marriage to white women, including Latinas at the time, was forbidden by California's antimiscegnation laws. The Filipino farm workers spent their lives in farm labor camps from which they were evicted when they were no longer productive. Unable to marry, most didn't have families or a place to stay. The Agbayani Village, named for a grape striker who died on the picketline, was dedicated in 1974. Built mission style in a central park-like setting, it had 58 living units, a lounge and common dining room where daily meals were provided. The last Filipino brother was 1965 grape striker Fred Abad who died in 1997 at age 87. Cesar Chavez conducted his last public fast, of 36 days, over the pesticide poisoning of farm workers in a small room at the very southeast corner of the village in summer 1988. The facility still offers affordable housing to low-income area residents, many elderly.

 

Quonset Hut

On the east side of Mettler Ave. just northeast of Forty Acres is an old Quonset hut that became a strike kitchen and warehouse/distribution center for donations of clothing and food for the grape strikers during the early years of the walkouts.

 

In the city of Delano

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church hall

On Mexican Independence Day, September 16, 1965, the mostly Latino membership of the National Farm Workers Association met in the hall next to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in west Delano. There, they voted to join a strike against Delano table and wine grape growers begun on September 8, 1965, by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, composed largely of Filipino American farm workers. NFWA members joined the picketlines four days later, on September 20, 1965.

 

Filipino Hall

It became a joint strike hall and kitchen for members belonging to both the National Farm Workers Association and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. The hall was a place where Latino and Filipino strikers met and ate together. Car caravans hailing from distant parts of California and across the country regularly brought food and clothing to Filipino Hall to aid the strikers. "Community meetings" were held in the hall on Friday nights throughout most of the five-year strike. During his first visit to Delano in March 1966, Senator Robert F. Kennedy spoke to the strikers in the hall after attending a Senate subcommittee hearing in Delano.

 

Missionary church

This missionary church building at Garces Highway and Belmont Street served as the site for the strikers' Friday night meetings and performances of the Teatro Campesino before they moved to the Filipino Hall.

 

102 Albany Street

The union's first offices, including Cesar Chavez's office, were housed here. It was also home to other union operations, including the El Malcriado newspaper, the Membership Department and Hiring Hall. Union scouts would radio in reports of strikebreakers showing up inside struck vineyards so pickets could be dispatched from this address. Shortly after the strike began in 1965, shots were fired into cars parked in front of the building. Behind 102 Albany Street, at First Avenue and Asti Street, was the "Pink House," so-named because it was painted pink. When the Delano strike began, it was home for some strikers left without a place to live. Later it served as headquarters for the grape boycott. Next to the Pink House was another former residence that served as the first offices of the National Farm Workers Service Center Inc.

 

People's Store and Cafe

The rambling building covers half a city block along Garces Highway and was the longtime site of a market (still there) with old-fashioned gas pumps in front. Next-door was a bar with pool tables that became a gathering place for union members during the 1965 Delano Grape Strike. The corner store was where Cesar Chavez began courting Helen Fabela, who worked the market cash register, after they started seeing each other in the mid-1940s.

 

1221 Kensington Street

Cesar and Helen Chavez and their eight children moved into the house just next door (to the north of) 1221 Kensington in early 1962, after they made the decision to begin a farm workers union. Within a short time the family moved to larger quarters next door, where they lived until relocating to La Paz, Keene, Calif. in 1971. The small wood-frame house at 1221 Kensington had two bedrooms?plus a third converted from a lean-to in the rear of the structure?and one bathroom.

 

321 Austin Street

Dolores Huerta and her family lived here from 1963 until 1970. The home hosted a day care and grocery center and it was where leaflets were run off before the union's office was established at 102 Albany Street. Dolores also put up many union volunteers in her house.

 

Delano High School auditorium

Sen. Robert Kennedy's first trip to Delano was in March 1966, to attend a hearing at the high school auditorium conducted by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor examining the Delano Grape Strike. After listening to Kern County Sheriff Leroy Gaylen testify how he had arrested a large group of peaceful picketers because the grower threatened to "cut their hearts out," the New York senator admonished "the sheriff and the district attorney to read the Constitution of the United States."

 

Stardust Motel

Room 44 at the Stardust Motel (now the Travel Inn) was where, in July 1970, a small group that included Cesar Chavez, UFW General Counsel Jerry Cohen and John Giumarra Jr. and Sr. met to negotiate the union contracts that ended the five-year Delano Grape Strike.

 

Memorial Park

On March 10, 1968, after Cesar Chavez and Sen. Robert Kennedy met briefly at the Forty Acres where Cesar had been fasting for 25 days, they drove to Memorial Park in Delano where the fast was broken during a mass held in the middle of the parking lot and attended by thousands of farm workers and union supporters.

 

Casa Hernandez

With 81 units of one- and two-bedroom garden-style apartments featuring full amenities including washers and dryers, Casa Hernandez provides highly affordable housing for seniors. Rents for one-bedroom units begin at $215 a month; two-bedroom apartments start at $255. The National Farm Workers Service Center Inc. facility, which opened in 1999, boasts a central community room where numerous meetings, activities and services are hosted, plus an active seniors program, including flu shots and screenings by health care providers. Named for Julio and Fina Hernandez, founding members of the United Farm Workers and leaders of the 1965 grape strike, Casa Hernandez is located in west Delano, directly across the street from the union's first offices.