“Huelga, huelga, huelga,” the crowd chanted, the Spanish word for strike, soon to be emblazoned on picket signs and seared in the collective memory of Delano. The meeting ended with the traditional Mexican tributes to fire up the crowd. The leader called out a viva – “long live” – and the crowd chanted the slogan back. Viva la huelga. Viva Mexico. And viva Cesar Chavez.
Eliseo went home caught up in the fervor, enticed by the hope. He had spent too many Sundays camped outside the office of a labor contractor, wasting his one day off to collect his wages. He had seen his mother and sister work without a single bathroom in the fields, forced to seek a shred of privacy by shielding one another. He had watched his father be fired because he could no longer keep up with the younger men in the fields.
The shy teenager from Zacatecas with a shock of dark hair tended to deliberate carefully before acting. Once he made a decision, Eliseo embraced the path with focused enthusiasm and a big, contagious grin. He went home after the meeting at the church and cracked open his piggy bank. He didn’t know what a contract was, but he counted out ten dollars and fifty cents. The next day, he drove to the headquarters at 102 Albany Street, handed three months dues to Helen Chavez and joined her husband’s union.”
excerpt from The Union Of Their Dreams