El Malcriado: The Voice of the Farm Worker and The Great Delano Grape Strike (by Asha Simon)

Standards:
  1. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text.
  2. Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
  3. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  4. Trace the advances and retreats of organized labor, from the creation of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations to current issues of a postindustrial, multinational economy, including the United Farm Workers in California.
Overview: The goal of this lesson is to teach students about The Great Delano Grape Strike and its historical importance in the context of the Chicano movement by conducting a close reading of two issues of El Malcriado: “The Voice of the Farm Worker.” The issues we will be looking at for this lesson plan are titled “The Strike Gets Stronger Every Day” and “Strike Spreads from Coast to Coast.” As a supplement to these newspaper issues, reading Eugene Nelson’s short book entitled Huelga! The First Hundred Days of the Great Delano Grape Strike is very helpful because it explains in a narrative format many details of the strike and the strategy involved from a first-hand account. Nelson was a member of the UFW and worked closely with Cesar Chavez. I suggest students read chapters 2 & 3 in Nelson’s book to familiarize themselves with the context of the strike before beginning to analyze the newspapers. Inside the newspaper issues, there is a lot to unpack. Each page, starting with the front covers are rich in content. The newspaper issues that the students will be looking at today have more photographs than other art such as screenprints or political cartoons. Historian Colin Gunckel offers insight into the Chicano/a photographic as an art form “which accounts for the diverse, expansive uses of photography within the cultural production of a social movement, from the creation of images to their promiscuous circulation, juxtaposition, and reworking.”1 Gunckel continues to argue that El Malcriado was an early influence towards this aesthetic tendency of Chicano/a photography. When analyzing the photographs included in these issues of El Malcriado, the students should think about how the photographs make them feel. The photographs allow for insight into the publication’s intended audience and perceived networks of solidarity. Beyond analyzing the photographs, students should pay attention to the language and structure of the newspaper. Students should use specific textual evidence from the issues of El Malcriado to consider the importance of a movement newspaper. Is there news here that wouldn’t have been published in a mainstream news source? Do we believe everything written in El Malcriado? Students should take advantage of these primary sources to gain a better understanding of the Great Delano Grape Strike, the UFW movement, and the Chicano movement more generally by accessing the voices of the workers directly by reading their own publication. Essential Understanding: Students will use El Malcriado to critically explore the United Farm Workers and their place in the Chicano movement by analyzing the two issues of the newspaper that focus on The Great Delano Grape Strike from a variety of different angles. Questions:
  1. Why was it essential for the farm workers to have a movement newspaper?
  2. How did religion interact with The Great Delano Grape Boycott? What role did religious figures play in the boycott?
  3. Was Cesar Chavez’s ideology of nonviolence effective in this movement? How?
  4. How did El Malcriado play a role in shaping Chicano identity and community?
  5. Who is the photography in El Malcriado trying to speak to? What does this reveal about the intended audience?
Glossary:
  • Boycott: A purposeful decision to abstain from purchasing or working to produce an item as an expression of protest and to hinder the profitability of that item.
  • Huelga: The Spanish term for strike. This was a nonviolent tactic used by César E. Chávez and the UFW to achieve fair wages and contracts. Through work stoppages, the UFW hoped to put economic pressure on growers, forcing them to negotiate with their workers.
  • A.W.O.C.: Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, led by Larry Itliong.
  • AFL-CIO: The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. It is the largest union group in the U.S.
  • Strikebreaker: Someone who works despite an ongoing strike, thus not cooperating with the strikers and breaking the strike.
  • Scab: Derogatory term for strikebreakers.
  • Grower: This term refers to the grape growers who exploited the farm workers. They were the targets of The Great Delano Grape Boycott striking.
Introduction: The National Farm Workers Association was founded in 1962 by a few hundred, mostly Mexican-American, farm worker families in search of an end to the trap imposed on them by California’s corporate agriculture. This Association was under the leadership of Cesar Chavez; its headquarters were in Delano because it is the state’s richest farming region with the poorest farm workers. The Association developed social services programs, a credit union, and in 1964, a newspaper called El Malcriado.2 El Malcriado’s “first task was to challenge the elaborate power structure of California’s central valley, with a newspaper for farm workers which could afford to tell the truth.”3 El Malcriado was first published only in Spanish, but as it gained popularity, an English version was published simultaneously. The content of El Malcriado included opinion pieces, news updates from the FWA, “political cartoons and caricatures of Andy Zermeno, photographs of rallies and protests, reproductions of prints by Mexican artists, images of deplorable living and working conditions, photographs identifying and exposing oppositional forces, and those that convey the resilience and determination of the organization and its constituency in the face of considerable obstacles.”4 El Malcriado came before other Chicano/a publications, thus establishing an identifiable Chicano/a aesthetic.5 Today, we will closely examine two issues of El Malcriado; both focus on The Great Delano Grape Strike. Historian Matt Garcia argued that The Great Delano Grape Strike, beginning on September 8, 1965, marked the real birth of the farm worker movement.6 This strike had more success and further reach than anyone could have imagined when it first began. The strikers demanded that they be paid $1.40 per hour for picking and packing the table grapes plus a small bonus of 25 cents per box. Before the strike, this difficult work was done for 9 cents per box and no hourly wage at all while the grower gets more than $4.00 for each box he sells.7 In his book Huelga! The First Hundred Days of the Great Delano Grape Strike, Eugene Nelson, a member of FWA and active participant in the Great Delano Grape Strike wrote about the first day of the boycott: Nelson stood outside in the dark before dawn with Cesar Chavea and a few others, stopping cars and turning them away from going to work, persuading them to join the strike. Nelson told the passengers of one car, “Haven’t you heard about the strike? Everybody is going out. Yes, everybody. Todos van a salir. We’re asking $1.40 an hour and 25¢ a box. Nobody’s going to work until the growers sign contracts and raise the wages…”8 Most of the cars they pulled over who didn’t know about the strike before, knew now and wanted to participate. This strike was monumental because Latino, Filipino, and other races too united to fight the growers and their power; because Cesar Chavez insisted that everyone involved remain nonviolent; because the strike attracted a lot of attention from national unions, church activists and ministers, students, Latinos and other minorities, and civil rights groups; and because the strikers employed boycotting tactics which spread throughout the country.9 Zooming out, this movement was simultaneously shaping the Chicano movement because the UFW struggle had become synonymous with the Mexican American fight for civil rights due to the majority of the farmworkers being of Mexican descent and of the most exploited workers in the country.10 As Cesar Chavez said, “The farm worker is synonymous with the Mexican American in California.”11 Materials: Activities: The class will have read Chapters 2 & 3 for homework for today to be prepared for the class discussions. Class will begin by listening to the song Huelga en General. The translated lyrics will be distributed so that non-Spanish speaking students can also appreciate the lyrics. When the song ends, the class will turn to the people near them to discuss what this song means in the context of the reading they did for today: how does this song interact with the UFW’s mission? Does it align perfectly or are there parts where the song diverges from UFW and El Malcriado’s message? Next, I will pass around Issue No. 21 and Issue No. 26 of El Malcriado to each student to look through. Then the class will be split up into four groups, and each group will be assigned a different question to work on. Two groups will be focusing on Issue No. 21 and two groups will be focusing on Issue No. 26. Each group should select one student to take notes on their discussion to present to the class. Remind the students to be prepared to share specific quotes from the newspaper with the class to back up their answers. The questions will be as follows:
  1. Issue No. 21, Group 1: Page 7 of this issue depicts a full page photograph of three strikers looking directly into the camera and holding picket signs that say “Huelga.” Why would El Malcriado dedicate a full page to this picture? What might this choice (to let it fill the page) tell us about the intended audience of the El Malcriado?
  2. Issue No. 21, Group 2: On page 13 of this issue, El Malcriado printed a piece called “An Appeal to Mothers Everywhere” that speaks to the loyalty of the women/wives who don’t have enough to feed their children because they “stand by our husbands in the strike for as long as it lasts.” How does this piece reflect El Malcriado’s views of women? Does it promote gender roles by locking women into a domestic rather than revolutionary role?
  3. Issue No. 26, Group 3: In the editorial that begins this issue, El Malcriado offers a long-winded and poetic definition of  “the movement.” Write a lengthy definition of “the movement” based off of this text and make sure to include how El Malcriado addresses who should be included in this movement.
  4. Issue No. 26, Group 4: Analyze the structure of Issue No. 26 of El Malcriado. Why are certain pictures larger than others? How does the captioning affect the reader’s interaction with the source they’re looking at? Why were the readers’ response letters in the back chosen to be published? What does the reader gain or lose from the structure?
Once students are ready to share their findings, the chosen representative of each group will share the thoughts discussed in their group and the rest of the class will follow along, looking at the page numbers as the representative references quotes and page numbers. Then in a class discussion, pose these broader questions about the El Malcriado issues to the class, one at a time:
  1. Why was it essential for the farm workers to have a movement newspaper?
  2. How did El Malcriado play a role in shaping Chicano identity and community?
  3. Was Cesar Chavez’s ideology of nonviolence effective in this movement? How and why?
  4. Why was boycotting a strong tool for farm workers to resist the growers in this historical moment?
For homework, each student should prepare a page long or page-sized item to be printed in the next issue El Malcriado after Issue No. 26. This submission may be anything from a political cartoon to a song to an opening editorial. Additional Sources
  • Garcia, Matt. “A Moveable Feast: The Ufw Grape Boycott and Farm Worker Justice.” International Labor and Working-Class History 83, no. 83 (2013): 146-53.
  • Gunckel, Colin. “Building a Movement and Constructing Community: Photography, the United Farm Workers, and El Malcriado.” Social Justice 42, no. 3-4 (142) (2015): 29-45.
  • Patiño, Jimmy. “The First Time I Met César Chávez, I Got into an Argument with Him: California Employer Sanctions and Chicano Debates on Undocumented Workers.” In Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego, 90-122. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469635576_patino.8.
  • Nelson, Eugene. Huelga! The First Hundred Days of the Great Delano Grape Strike. Delano: Farm Worker Press, 1966.
  • Kim, Inga. “The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott.” UFW. March 07, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2019. https://ufw.org/1965-1970-delano-grape-strike-boycott/.
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1 Colin Gunckel, “Building a Movement and Constructing Community: Photography, the United Farm Workers, and El Malcriado,” Social Justice 42, no. 3-4 (2015): 29. 2 Eugene Nelson, Huelga! The First Hundred Days of the Great Delano Grape Strike (Delano: Farm Worker Press, 1966), 126. 3 Nelson, Huelga!, 127. 4 Gunckel, “Building a Movement and Constructing Community,” 29. 5 Ibid, 29. 6 Matt Garcia, “A Moveable Feast: The UFW Grape Boycott and Farm Worker Justice,” International Labor and Working-Class History 83, no. 83 (2013): 147. 7 El Malcriado: The Voice of the Farm Worker, No. 21 (Delano: Farm Worker Press, 1965), from Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/archives/#malcriado (accessed March 26, 2019), 12. 8 Nelson, Huelga!, 2. 9 Inga Kim,”The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott.” UFW. March 07, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2019. https://ufw.org/1965-1970-delano-grape-strike-boycott/. 10 Jimmy Patiño, “The First Time I Met César Chávez, I Got into an Argument with Him: California Employer Sanctions and Chicano Debates on Undocumented Workers.” In Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), 96. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469635576_patino.8. 11 Patiño, “The First Time I Met César Chávez, I Got into an Argument with Him,” 96.

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