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In the 1960s and 1970s, Mexican American workers across Texas engaged in bitter struggles to organize their labor against economic oppression and institutional racism. Workers walked picket lines, took to the streets, and organized national boycott campaigns to demand liveable wages and better working conditions. Through these efforts, Chicana/os [1] developed nuanced analyses of the political economies of the US Southwest and made demands that shook the foundations of the racialized and gendered labor regimes so ubiquitous in the region.

"Austin Chicano Huelgistas, Feb. 6, 1971, rally"
"Austin Chicano Huelgistas, Feb. 6, 1971, rally"

This exhibit explores three unionization movements in Texas through documentation the Benson Latin American Collection preserves. The first section examines photographs and newspaper clippings of the Economy Furniture Company strike in Austin (1968-1972), centering on the tactics and strategies workers utilized to build and sustain solidarity. The second looks at the Farah Strike in El Paso (1972) through published bulletins, focusing on how Chicana women claimed a new political identity in a national fight against racialized and gendered labor regimes. The final section examines the nuanced analysis of South and Southwestern political economies that undergirded the Texas Farm Workers Union campaign for the right to collective bargaining (1975-1982) in the newspaper El Cuhamil. Each of these historical events is an example of the Chicano Movement’s persistent and tenacious calls for justice in Texas.

Evidenced throughout is how workers drew on the Chicano Movement and the language of identity to respond to the intersecting oppressions of race, class, and gender Mexican American workers faced. They found strength and built solidarity through cultural, musical, and artistic traditions while challenging the gendered traditions that undermined the contributions of Chicanas. During the 1970s, Mexican American women claimed space and political identity within the labor movement, opening up new possibilities for generations to come. Through the day-to-day battles for material change, workers cultivated the economic, political, and social demands of the Chicano Movement and put them into practice.


[1] This exhibit uses the term “Chicano” to describe the movement of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and Chicana/o to describe participants, to reflect how participants historically referred to the movement and themselves.