Chávez, Huerta, and the Fight for Land in U.S./Mexico Colonias

Authors: Danielle Rivera*, University of Colorado, Boulder
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography
Keywords: Land rights, colonias, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon D2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Unbeknownst to many, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta played key roles in the creation of community organizations in South Texas. Particularly in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, they launched a community union model in the 1960s that spurred contemporary movements of the region’s poorest communities (colonias), later supported by organizers like John Henneberger and Juanita Valdez-Cox. Based upon open-ended interviews with Rio Grande Valley-based colonia organizers conducted between 2014 and 2016, this paper links Chicanx concepts of space and identity from Valley-born Gloria Anzaldúa to actual community organizing and insurgent planning practices in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. From 1966 to present, the paper highlights the evolution of United Farmworkers in South Texas into a community union model that constitutes a recognition of border culture in colonias. The paper concludes by arguing that these colonia movements represent a “taking back” of border culture and space in the face of increasing marginalization and discrimination from the United States and Texan governments. This is done through organizing that encourages land-owning colonia residents to leverage their property rights, advocating for their more marginalized undocumented neighbors. The result has been a shift in political climate within the Rio Grande Valley that increasingly favors border culture. The mechanisms of this political work may serve other marginalized Chicanx communities, especially in the face of an increasingly hostile political environment for Latinxs.

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