Dolores Huerta turns 82 and is awarded one of the nation’s highest honors

Dolores Huerta, the civil rights, workers and women’s advocate who co-founded the United Farm Workers of America in 1962, was named one of 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday. The Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the the United States. The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.

The unwearying activist has much to celebrate as she also turned 82 on April 10. She will be celebrating at a fundraiser for her non-profit organization, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, with Edward James Olmos, Lupe Ontiveros, Mike Gomez, Alma Martinez, and others, at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles. It will be a night of performances, networking, food, live music, and dancing.

Dolores Huerta turns 82 and is awarded one of the nation’s highest honors doloresandcesar people NBC Latino News
Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (Photos courtesy Dolores Huerta Foundation)

“There is nobody I have ever met that has worked as hard as her,” says Huerta’s second to oldest child out of 11 total, Lori de Leon, 59. “She has worked hard every day of her life.”

She says when her mother first started organizing with Cesar Chavez, she was a single mother with seven children. It was not an easy life because their mother was very busy and not around often.

“When I was turning 13, she had to leave because they were organizing the citrus workers in Florida, and she said ‘I know it’s a sacrifice, but the sacrifice you are making will be helping thousands of farm workers in Florida.’ We couldn’t argue with that. We all knew it.”

Huerta’s youngest daughter, Camila Chavez, 36, is the executive director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and agrees with her sister that they had a very unique childhood.

Dolores Huerta turns 82 and is awarded one of the nation’s highest honors doloresandcamilachavez people NBC Latino News
Dolores Huerta and her youngest daughter, Camila Chavez

“When she was in town, she would take us on different marches, and rallies,” she says. “We grew up in a mobile home. We bought our clothes in second hand stores. We had running water in our trailer though. There were people that lived in worse off conditions than us.”

Chavez is the daughter of the late brother of Cesar Chavez, Richard Chavez, with whom Huerta had a relationship with for more than 40 years before his death.

“My parents didn’t really sit and talk to us,” she says. “Everything we learned from them was through their actions. My mom was so outspoken that sometimes it was embarrassing. I learned to appreciate that and now I speak out as well.”

She says often Huerta was the only woman on the board of the UFW, and she had to fight a lot of sexism. However, what she loves most about her mother are her great ideas and optimistic character.

Dolores Huerta turns 82 and is awarded one of the nation’s highest honors doloreshuerta2 people NBC Latino News

“When people are feeling discouraged, like in Arizona, she says, ‘Oh great, this is a great opportunity to organize!,’” says Chavez. “When everyone else is discouraged, she looks at it like an opportunity. She always says, ‘I have an idea,’ and we all joke that’s more work us.”

Huerta tonight will be dancing, because according to Chavez, her mother has a tireless energy for dancing that matches her zest for fighting for justice.

“No matter what dance or event we’re at, she is always the last one on the dance floor,” says Chavez. “She has a lot of energy and runs circles around most of her kids.”

Comments

  1. […] September, the tireless 82-year-old Chicana civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, took to the campaign trail with President Obama to urge North Carolina Hispanics to vote for […]

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