California State Fair commemorates Filipino and Latino labor movement

SACRAMENTO, CA — Year after year thousands of Californians flock to the states capital for a tradition thats ran for 50 years: the State Fair.

This year, the event, which began as an agricultural showcase, celebrated its golden anniversary with an exhibit honoring the state’s farmworkers movement — a collaboration made more than 50 years ago between Filipino and Latino farm laborers.

State fair officials even organized a dedication ceremony for the exhibit’s Filipino delegation, gathering Fil-Am leaders including United Farm Workers organizer Cynthia Bonta, and Chief Justice of California, Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

“There’s been some people… who have said you guys have taken a risk to highlight something like this, but it’s important and thats why we wanted to do it,” said Sabrina Rodriguez, Media Director. “It’s magical to see folks walking along the photos, reading the stories, watching the video and maybe learning something they didn’t know before. Thats one of the things we wanted to share with folks, that there was a big Filipino contribution… it was everyone coming together.”

In 1965, Filipino grape workers led by Larry Itliong in Delano, CA, striked against their poor pay and working conditions. Cesar Chavez and other Latino laborers joined the strike, forming a movement that shaped not just on one of California’s largest industries, but even labor laws for the entire United States.

“Filipinos were key in the strike in 1965 and that Cesar said they weren’t ready is what I understand, and finally he was convinced to join the Filipinos so we’re forever entwined, and really appreciated and indebted to the Filipino farm workers who led the way,” said Dr. Maria Mejorado from Sacramento State University.

For some Fil-Ams, the exhibit served as an opportunity to be proud of the contributions the Filipino community has made to the state.

“This country was built on immigrants, I think that just shows we can all come together and work together, and make change and make our lives better,” said Chris Reyes from Fairfield.

“I’m very proud to see credit given to Filipinos who were leaders in the labor movement 50 years ago,” said Dr. Jane de Leon.

While the California State Fair wraps up its run for 2017, it is this exhibits hope that the history of Filipino and Latino farm laborers will leave a lasting mark on the minds of Californians for years to come.

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