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Community Honors Famous Activist with ‘A Conversation with Dolores Huerta’
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – OCTOBER 10, 2012 – A rapturous chorus of voices chanting “Sí se puede!” filled The Arts Center at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College to welcome revered Hispanic community activist and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dolores Huerta on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
“The soul of Texas starts here in South Texas,” Huerta said to applause. “I think you have shown the rest of Texas the way. All change comes from the bottom up.”
All 10 essay finalists received guitars signed by Huerta courtesy of Hermes Music
An audience of hundreds, including the Mayor of Brownsville, Tony Martinez, television personality Johnny Canales, CEO of Hermes Music Foundation Alberto Kreimerman and four-time Grammy Award-winning musician Ramón Ayala, gathered in the performance hall for “A Conversation with Dolores Huerta.”
The event honored the 82-year-old’s lifetime of accomplishments. Outside of The Arts Center, roughly 50 people watched a live stream of the events from the Student Union’s El Gran Salón.
“We teach each generation in the Valley about our legends like César Chávez and our guest Dolores Huerta,” Dr. Juliet V. García, President of UT Brownsville, said in her introduction of Huerta.
Huerta spoke to the eager crowd of her experiences as a community activist and working to establish the United Farm Workers Union with the late César Chávez in the 1960s.
Huerta sat down to have a conversation with students Karla Hernandez, a senior criminal justice police administration major, Dario Gonzalez, a sophomore criminal justice police administration major, and Vannessa Treviño, a junior nursing major, all of whom are a part of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).
CAMP is designed to help past and present migrant students adjust to university life by providing mentoring, advising, scholarships and tutoring in their freshmen year. This year, CAMP is celebrating its tenth year anniversary. Each student took turns asking questions of Huerta and spoke about their experiences as migrant students.
“We worked 15 hours a day shucking corn,” recounted Treviño of how her family began working as migrant workers when she was 15. “I learned so much from that [experience]. I have a chance to fight for my education now. I have a chance to fight for a better life.”
During the evening conversation, Huerta touched upon several topics ranging from a need for mobilization among Latino voters, to her experiences as an activist working closely with César Chávez and the role of sacrifice in the fight against social injustice.
“Always be authentic,” urged Huerta. “Always be yourself. And always work for others.”
The winners of the student essay contest were announced. Eunice Baez, Susy Mireles and David Ramirez III were selected from a field of more than 100 essay submissions. Ten finalists were selected from a field of more than 100 essay submissions.
Students were asked to write on “Claro Que Se Puede: What does it mean to me?” A committee of faculty members selected the 10 finalists, and Huerta chose the top three winners: Baez, Mireles and Ramirez.
Dolores Huerta speaks with students in the Education and Business Complex's Salon Cassia.
Tony Martinez, the Mayor of Brownsville, presented Dolores Huerta with a plaque and proclamation officially commemorating Oct. 9, 2012 as “Dolores Huerta Day” in the City of Brownsville.
The prelude to a special performance by Ramón Ayala y Los Bravos del Norte and the UTB and TSC String Ensemble was a broadcast of the promotional video by the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and the Hermes Music Foundation, “Claro Que Se Puede”, presented by Johnny Canales and narrated by Edward James Olmos.
The song, “Claro Que Se Puede,” was written by Huerta and Kreimerman and has been performed by Carlos Santana, Los Lonely Boys, Ramón Ayala y Los Bravos del Norte, Del Castillo, Elefante and in English by Willie Nelson.
At the end of the night, Huerta engaged the crowd one more time with a rousing call and response chant. “Viva!” Huerta shouted. “Viva!” the audience in attendance replied.
Earlier in the day, Huerta joined students for an informal question and answer session in the Education and Business Complex’s Salón Cassia. She urged students to exercise their right to vote in the coming elections.
“The most important non-violent weapon we have is our vote,” Huerta said. “If we don’t give up, things will change. We just keep on working until we make things happen.”
Kaity Lara, a 21-year-old senior communication major, was in attendance as a representative of her sorority, Sigma Psi Delta.
“Dolores Huerta is an amazing human being,” Lara said. “She serves as an inspiration to Latina women everywhere. It was an honor just to be in the presence of someone whose courage in the face of discrimination literally changed the world for the better
Huerta’s visit to Brownsville was made possible by the Hermes Music Foundation, The City of Brownsville, Capital One Bank, Valley Baptist Medical Center–Brownsville and H-E-B.