Commentary of Luis Valdez on The Plan of Delano
1. I wrote it in consultation with Cesar. Actually, the idea surfaced in the planning session we had in Carpenteria for the March to Sacramento. It was decided by all involved that a statement of some kind was in order. Cesar was particularly insistent, however, that the emphasis be put on actions not on the words. Thus: the first article of the Plan is that “este sera un movimiento de hechos y no de pronunciamientos.” Cesar’s words exactly.
2. An interesting historical note is that El Plan de Delano is based on El Plan de Ayala, composed in Morelos, Mexico by the followers of Emiliano Zapata, presumably with Zapata’s participation, thus echoing Cesar’s in Delano. I began writing the text based on a series of notes from an initial conversation with Cesar. As it evolved, I presented Cesar with three or four drafts, containing his changes and amendments. As I recall, he was genuinely pleased with the result.
3. It was Cesar’s idea that I read the Plan of Delano at all the stops on the March to Sacramento. Reading it again, it is clear that the high-flying Spanish oratory of Zapata’s Plan merged with the more humble expressions of California’s campesinos.
4. The Plan was written just before the March to Sacramento at the same time I was writing a couple of articles about the March and the Teatro published in Ramparts Magazine in the Spring of 1966.
THE PLAN OF DELANO
PLAN for the liberation of the Farm Workers associated with the Delano Grape Strike in the State of California, seeking social justice in farm labor with those reforms that they believe necessary for their well-being as workers in these United States.
We, the undersigned, gathered in Pilgrimage to the capital of the State in Sacramento in penance for all the failings of Farm Workers as free and sovereign men, do solemnly declare before the civilized world which judges our actions, and before the nation to which we belong, the propositions we have formulated to end the injustice that oppresses us.
We are conscious of the historical significance of our Pilgrimage. It is clearly evident that our path travels through a valley well known to all Mexican farm workers. We know all these towns of Delano, Madera, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and Sacramento because along this very same road, in this very same valley, the Mexican race has sacrificed itself for the last hundred years. Our sweat and our blood have fallen on this land to make other men rich. This pilgrimage is a witness to the suffering we have seen for generations.
The Penance we accept symbolizes the suffering we shall have in order to bring justice to these same towns, to this same valley. The Pilgrimage we make symbolizes the long historical road we have traveled in this valley alone, and the long road we have yet to travel, with much penance, in order to bring about the Revolution we need, and for which we present the propositions in the following PLAN:
1. This is the beginning of a social movement in fact and not in pronouncements. We seek our basic, God-given rights as human beings. Because we have suffered—and are not afraid to suffer—in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything, even our lives, in our fight for social justice. We shall do it without violence because that is our destiny. To the ranchers, and to all those who oppose us, we say, in the words of Benito Juarez, “EL RESPETO AL DERECHO AJENO ES LA PAZ.”
2. We seek the support of all political groups and protection of the government, which is also our government, in our struggle. For too many years we have been treated like the lowest of the low. Our wages and working conditions have been determined from above, because irresponsible legislators, who could have helped us, have supported the ranchers’ argument that the plight of the Farm Worker was a “special case.” They saw the obvious effects of an unjust system, starvation wages, contractors, day hauls, forced migration, sickness, illiteracy, camps and sub-human living conditions, and acted as if they were irremediable causes.
The farm worker has been abandoned to his own fate—without representation, without power—subject to the mercy and caprice of the rancher. We are tired of words, of betrayals, of indifference. To the politicians we say that the years are gone when the farm worker said nothing and did nothing to help himself. From this movement shall spring leaders who shall understand us, lead us, be faithful to us, and we shall elect them to represent us. WE SHALL BE HEARD.
3. We seek, and have, the support of the Church in what we do. At the head of the Pilgrimage we carry LA VIRGEN DE LA GUADALUPE because she is ours, all ours, Patroness of the Mexican people. We also carry the Sacred Cross and the Star of David because we are not sectarians, and because we ask the help and prayers of all religious. All men are brothers, sons of the same God; this is why we say to all men of good will, in the wordsofPopeLeoXI,“Everyone’sfirstdutyistoprotecttheworkersfromthe greed of speculators who use human beings as instruments to provide themselves with money. It is neither just nor human to oppress men with excessive work to the point where their minds become enfeebled and their bodies worn out.” GOD SHALL NOT ABANDON US.
4. We are suffering. We have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to win our cause. We have suffered unnumbered ills and crimes in the name of the Law of the Land.
Our men, women, and children have suffered not only the basic brutality of stoop labor, and the most obvious injustices of the system; they have also suffered the desperation of knowing that the system caters to the greed of callous men and not to our needs. Now we will suffer for the purpose of ending the poverty, the misery, and the injustice, with the hope that our children will not be exploited as we have been.
They have imposed hunger on us, and now we hunger for justice. We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. WE SHALL ENDURE.
5. We shall unite. We have learned the meaning of UNITY. We know why these United States are just that—united. The strength of the poor is also in union. We know that the poverty of the Mexican or Filipino worker in California is the same as that of all farm workers across the country, the Negroes and poor whites, the Puerto Ricans, Japanese, and Arabians; in short, all of the races that comprise the oppressed minorities of the United States. The majority of the people on our Pilgrimage are of Mexican descent, but the triumph of our race depends on a national association of all farm workers. The ranchers want to keep us divided in order to keep us weak. Many of us have signed individual “work contracts” with the ranchers or contractors, contracts in which they have all the power. These contracts were farces, one more cynical joke at our impotence. That is why we must get together and bargain collectively. We must use the only strength that we have, the force of our numbers. The ranchers are few; we are many. UNITED WE SHALL STAND.
6. We shall strike. We shall pursue the REVOLUTION we have proposed. We are sons of the Mexican Revolution, a revolution of the poor seeking bread and justice. Our revolution will not be armed, but we want the existing social order to dissolve; we want a new social order. We are poor, we are humble, and our only choice is to Strike in those ranches where we are not treated with the respect we deserve as working men, where our rights as free and sovereign men are not recognized. We do not want the paternalism of the rancher; we do not want the contractor; we do not want charity at the price of our dignity. We want to be equal with all the working men in the nation; we want a just wage, better working conditions, a decent future for our children. To those who oppose us, be they ranchers, police, politicians, or speculators, we say that we are going to continue fighting until we die, or we win. WE SHALL OVERCOME.
Across the San Joaquin Valley, across California, across the entire Southwest of the United States, wherever there are Mexican people, wherever there are farm workers, our movement is spreading like flames across a dry plain. Our PILGRIMAGE is the MATCH that will light our cause for all farm workers to see what is happening here, so that they may do as we have done. The time has come for the liberation of the poor farm worker.
History is on our side.
MAY THE STRIKE GO ON!
VIVA LA CAUSA!
VIVA LA HUELGA!