A Better Future

On August 27, 1966, Bishop Martinez gave a blessing from the steps of the Alamo for the Starr County Farm Workers who were marching from the Rio Grande Valley to Austin to protest and raise awareness of the working conditions of the farm laborers who harvested those wonderful cantaloupe I remember so well. I remember buying some off a truck for 10 cents each. At the end of the melon season, they started a 400-mile march that came through San Antonio and then went on to the State Capitol, arriving on Labor Day after being paid between 40 and 85 cents an hour to harvest that same cantaloupe.

This Labor Day, he will again address those who are concerned about safe working conditions, people’s rights to assemble and organize or who want to honor and remember the hard work and dedication of those who marched. Bishop Martinez is encouraging all United Methodists of the newly formed Rio Texas Conference to attend the activities commemorating this event. A Mass will be held at San Fernando Cathedral at 10:00 Monday, September 5, 2016. At 11:00 people will be invited to march from the Cathedral to Milam Park in symbolic support of those who marched 50 years ago. Around noon, the program and rally will begin at the kiosk in the park including speakers who marched or supported those brave people 50 years ago. Even though the governor at the time met the marchers near New Braunfels to assure them he would not be in Austin when they arrived and had no intention of raising the minimum wage to $1.25, they continued their march and were joined by over 10,000 people who walked with them the last four miles.

Taking a stand is not always easy but I have been told that you can tell the quality of a person by the enemies they make. Many Methodist pastors who wanted to show support for the marchers were effectively told they need not write a sermon next Sunday if they prayed or offered support like Bishop Martinez did because no one would be there the following Sunday. For some who were opposed, it was an economic issue, for others, race. “The March did not win any contracts, or even State passage of a $1.25 minimum wage. But it ended forever the myth that Mexican-Americans were ‘happy, contented, satisfied’ with second–class citizenship and a life of poverty” (https://farmworkers2016.org/2016/01/12/history-historia/.

I cannot imagine what San Antonio would look like today if that quote were even remotely still believed. I don’t believe racism is over in San Antonio but the vast depth of strength that is the lifeblood of San Antonio runs through a broad range of people, from many cultures and backgrounds, who have contributed significantly in making San Antonio the great city it is today. “I think if we forget the struggles, the suffering, the work for justice of those who went before us, we tend then to neglect and take for granted that which we have achieved and the rights that we think have been given to us” (Bishop Martinez, http://ksat.com/news/photographer-chronicles-farmworker-struggles# (7/21/2016).

Some of you were not alive in 1966 or were very young. Others of you were not involved or may not have been aware of the March. Some of you may have, at that time, marched with the workers or threatened to “leave the church” if your pastor showed support.  Wherever you think of yourself being in 1966, I hope all of you will try to attend at least one of the events on Monday, September 5. There is still a lot of work to be done in the area of justice and equality and if we forget the work that was done before, we may not have the strength or endurance to do the work needed today. We cannot change our past but we can learn from it. “I will thank God for those workers, especially those mothers and grandmothers that wanted a different future for their children” (Bishop Martinez. Ibid.). We must remember that those mothers and grandmothers are still out there wanting a better future for their. . . .  OUR children.

See you Sunday,