Melon Strike at La Casita Farms (1966)
Melon Strike (1966)
In the summer of 1966, during the height of the cataloupe harvest, La Casita Farms became the focal point for the Starr County Melon Strike of 1966 and launched the beginning of the farmworkers' movement in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Farmworkers from Griffin and Brand, El Texano and La Casita Farms were organized by Eugene Nelson as the Independent Workers Association of the Valley (later United Farm Workers) to bargain collectively for minimum wage.
On the first day of the strike over 750 farmworkers had pledged to join "la huelga." The Starr County melon strike drew national attention as strikers, local and national organizers clashed with law enforcement. State and local clergy attempted to mediate and advocate on behalf of the striking farmworkers and their families. Local mayors from Roma, La Grulla, La Joya, and Edinburg stood in solidarity with the strikers.
Strikers held out for 90 days despite growers' attempts to break the strike by bringing in new migrant workers from Mexico and raising wages. The strike culminated on Labor Day 1966 with La Marcha, a march of 15,000 striking farmworkers, organizers, and supporters from Roma to the state capital in Austin.
Although the wage demands were not met, the melon strike and march were considered victories for Valley farmworkers and the Mexican-American community. They not only exposed the political machine that oppressed migrant laborers and farmworkers, but the movement also dispelled the myth that ethnic Mexican people were grateful for work even when they were exploited with low wages and poor working conditions.