Women Run Over, Kids Hurling Stones, Mid East? Nope. Grant Co. NM.

Marking the date, 62 Years Ago Today, Workers and the Movement for Women's Equity Won a Huge Victory!

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Women Run Over, Kids Hurling Stones, Mid East? Nope. Grant Co. NM.

Estimados Amigos y Amigas,

My good friend in Silver City and labor historian/activist Hueteotl Lopez reminded me earlier this week about the most important historical date in the history of New Mexico labor. Yes, January 25, 2014 -- the 62nd anniversary of the day Chicanos and Chicanas shocked and BEAT the mining industry in the world famous Empire Zinc Strike (1950-1952). Of course, the strike was the inspiration for the blacklisted movie "Salt of the Earth" which was released in March 1954.

FREE 60th Anniversary Events, Grant Co. March 15, 2014

The early 1950s represented almost 100 years since the United States invaded Mexico (1846) and stole 1/2 of her territory (1848). In this rich southwest NM land, mining companies quickly moved in to exploit and cash in on the mineral riches of this area. The Chicanos/Chicanas (Mexican Americans) -- not "Hispanics" - a European term -- were treated very much the same as the African Americans in the deep South and beyond. Segregation was a way of life including schools, swimming pools, work categories, movie theaters, transportation, and even the local cemeteries. The suffering from discrimination, humiliation and inhumane treatment had lasted over 100 years and the people were not going to take it anymore.

Our local miners organized and united to fight one of the most powerful industries in the country. Other mining companies were cheering the New Jersey Zinc Company to win the strike at Empire Zinc Mine. They were very confident and why not? They had the powerful status quo of national, state, and local politicians on their side, plus the laws that benefited corporations (hmm, has anything changed?).

However, one thing the company did not have and which changed the course of history was the strength of the women in Grant County and the resolve and unity which was developed between husbands and wives, miners, and community members of all walks of life.

In short, the miners, their wives, and communities became so united as to make the wealthy corporations back down -- at least for the moment. As Mrs. Virginia Chacon told me in an interview before she passed, "We were so proud to see our struggles featured in the movie 'Salt of the Earth', but no movie could capture the suffering and humiliation that we endured throughout our lives and during the fight to win the Empire Zinc Strike." And after the strike, the status quo was furious with the Local 890 leadership and sought to undo the good that the miners and moviemakers accomplished, according to Mrs. Chacon.

In 2014 we find ourselves celebrating and commemorating this great labor victory and the great movie. The legacy of the miners and wives and community in the early 1950s is historical fact. Perhaps their inspiration will assist us in, once again, launching a movement for the working class.

Luis I. Quinones, Ph.D.

Las Cruces, NM

A Big GRACIAS to Hueteotl Lopez for his research, his advocacy, and resolve.

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