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Rio Grande Valley Farm Workers March in 1966: Images from the San Antonio Express-News Collection

September 16, 2013

The Rio Grande Valley Farm Workers March (“La Marcha”) was among the major events in the Latino movement for economic justice in Texas during the 1960s.  The impetus for the march developed after efforts to gain decent wages for farm laborers in Starr County had failed in 1966.   Labor organizer Eugene Nelson and the National Workers’ Association Organizing Committee, who had organized a major strike during the June melon harvest, decided to take their case to the state capitol in Austin.  The purpose of the march was to petition Governor John Connally to call a special session of the legislature to pass a state minimum wage bill and the right for the union to bargain on their behalf.  On July 4, 1966, members of the farm workers’ association and clergy began a 400 mile journey in the summer heat from Rio Grande City to Austin.  The path took them to Corpus Christi and San Antonio, with arrival in Austin on Labor Day.  Despite their efforts, Governor Connally denied their request.  But the extensive media coverage during the long march helped to make Texans aware of the unfair labor practices and energized others to join the movement for higher wages and social justice.

These photographs, taken by San Antonio Express-News photographer Jim English, document the march as it passed through Floresville and San Antonio. 

Marchers arrive in Floresville, the hometown of Texas Governor John Connally, August 23, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-02)

Marchers arrive in Floresville, the hometown of Governor John Connally, August 23, 1966. (MS360: E-0012-187-A-02)

Rev. James Novarro, pastor of Kashmere Baptist Temple in Houston and co-chairman of the march, leads the other marchers along U. S. Highway 181 near Floresville, August 24, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-B-01)

Rev. James Novarro, pastor of Kashmere Baptist Temple in Houston and co-chairman of the march, leads the marchers along U. S. Highway 181 near Floresville, August 24, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-B-01)

Marchers rest under trees on the grounds of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Floresville, August 23, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-07)

Marchers rest under trees on the grounds of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Floresville, August 23, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-07)

The farm workers’ burro mascot, “$1.25” (named for the minimum wage they were seeking), is watered and fed on the church grounds, Floresville, August 23, 1966.  (MS 360:  E-0012-187-A-08)

The farm workers’ mascot, “$1.25” (named for the minimum wage they were seeking), is watered and fed on the church grounds, Floresville, August 23, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-08)

Marchers at Mass in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Floresville, August 23, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-22)

Marchers attend Mass in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Floresville, August 23, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-22)

Dinner for the marchers at El Mesias United Methodist Church, Floresville, August 23, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-28)

Dinner for the marchers at El Mesias United Methodist Church, Floresville, August 23, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-28)

Rev. Antonio Gonzales, priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Houston and co-chairman of the march, speaking at a rally of about 500 people outside the Wilson County Courthouse, Floresville, August 23, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-35)

Rev. Antonio Gonzales, priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Houston and co-chairman of the march, speaks at a rally of about 500 people outside the Wilson County Courthouse, Floresville, August 23, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-35)

Joining the San Antonio segment of the march is H. S. (Hank) Brown (third from left), president of the Texas AFL-CIO.  He is walking between Rev. Novarro and Father Gonzales as they approach Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Antonio, August 26, 1966.   (MS 360: E-0012-187-C-02)

Joining the San Antonio segment of the march is H. S. (Hank) Brown (third from left), president of the Texas AFL-CIO. He is walking between Rev. Novarro and Father Gonzales as they approach Mission San Juan Capistrano,                     San Antonio, August 26, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-C-02)

Local labor representatives, politicians, and students join the Valley marchers at a rally outside St. John’s Seminary, San Antonio, August 27, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-33)

Local labor representatives, politicians, and students join the Valley marchers at a rally outside St. John’s Seminary, San Antonio, August 27, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-A-33)

Following a pouring rain, the marchers walk along S. Main Avenue near downtown, August 27, 1966.  (MS 360:  E-0012-187-D-16)

Following a pouring rain, the marchers walk along South Main Avenue near downtown, August 27, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-D-16)

A group of nuns participate in the march as it nears San Fernando Cathedral, August 27, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-D-21)

A group of nuns participate in the march as it nears San Fernando Cathedral, August 27, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-D-21)

Archbishop Robert E. Lucey at a Pontifical Mass for the marchers at San Fernando Cathedral, August 27, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-E-06)

Archbishop Robert E. Lucey at a Pontifical High Mass for the marchers at San Fernando Cathedral, August 27, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-E-06)

Pedro Rios and Margaret Swann, both from Rio Grande City, shortly before the offertory of the Mass during which they presented bread, wine, and fruit, August 27, 1966.  (MS 360: E-0012-187-E-07)

Pedro Rios and Margaret Swann, both from Rio Grande City, shortly before the offertory of the Mass during which they presented bread, wine, and fruit, August 27, 1966. (MS 360: E-0012-187-E-07)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2015 11:24 am

    Great job covering an historic change in Texas-modern history–Joe J. Bernal

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  1. 27. The Sixties | AY: 2015-2016 Archive

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