Luisa Moreno to Dolores Huerta: Exemplifying the Heart of Chicana Activism before the Chicana Feminist Movement
Throughout the 1930s and 40s, and prior to the 1960s Chicano movement, there was a great deal of political unrest between workers and the companies who employed them. There was also rampant discrimination against Latinos in the community. During that time, a young woman from Guatemala took it upon herself and spoke out for the rights of Mexican Americans and against the discrimination they faced here in the United States. Her work would be a precursor to the Chicana activism and leadership that we saw from Dolores Huerta in the 1960’s farm workers movement. Alongside Cesar Chavez, Huerta led farm workers in an unprecedented struggle for their rights. Both Moreno and Huerta were non-traditional and non-conforming Chicana feminists before a Chicana movement existed. Their work, a great marker for Chicana feminism, was not gender-biased but rather community oriented.
Moreno, born in 1907 as Blanca Rosa, was a young woman from an exclusively wealthy family in Guatemala who chose to reject the lifestyle she was born into and she forged out on her own. She left for Mexico City and joined the bohemian culture where she was influenced by the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. She then moved to New York City, with her new husband, arriving in Spanish Harlem just before the beginning of the Great Depression. After witnessing a tragic accident - her close friend’s baby died after having her face chewed off by a rat- she set out to fight for better living and material conditions for her fellow sweatshop workers. This tragedy, more than any prior event in her life, deeply politicized her and it is here where she began her career of labor organizing.
Like Moreno, Huerta did not come from humble means, but rather born in 1930 to a middle class family from New Mexico which was led by a strong and independent female. In contrast to other traditional...