Honoring Juan Huerta’s pioneering sacrifice and service for Salinas Valley farm workers
It was with sadness that the United Farm Workers, the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the Chavez family learned of the Dec. 14 passing of Juan Huerta, 88, who became a central figure in the Salinas Valley for his sacrifice and service during some of the most difficult and momentous periods in the movement’s history.
Juan always completely gave himself in the service to the farm workers, helping them negotiate and administer their union contracts, and directing UFW offices in King City and Salinas during the 1970s and ‘80s. He especially focused on providing a variety of much needed social services to poor farm workers through what today is the Chavez foundation. Most importantly, Juan helped empower people who previously had no voice.
The farm worker movement is privileged to be among the good causes Juan championed over a long and distinguished career as an activist deeply committed to family and community, including advancing affordable housing and health care. He continued assisting people until only a few weeks before his passing.
Born in the Mexican state of Veracruz, Juan immigrated at age 17 to the United States in 1944, seeking a better life. He labored in the corn and sugar beet fields of Montana and in the cotton rows of California’s Central Valley before settling in southern Monterey County. Juan met his wife, Angelita Perez, in 1947 in King City, and they were married for 68 years. He was a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Greenfield and co-founder of the Guadalupana Society.
In a joint letter to Juan’s widow, Angie Huerta, UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez and Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez wrote, “Cesar Chavez, who came to consistently rely upon Juan to help advance La Causa in the Salinas Valley, would distinguish between people who are of service and those who are servants. Many decent people perform regular acts of kindness or charity in their everyday lives. But a relative few become genuine servants by dedicating their entire lives to the service of others in need. By that definition, Juan Huerta was a true servant.”
The UFW and Chavez foundation ask everyone in the movement to keep the Huerta family in their prayers in honor of Juan’s lengthy dedication and service to farm workers.
Juan Huerta is survived by his wife, Angie Huerta, of Greenfield; five children: Yrma (Ramon) Rendon of Greenfield, Frank (Liz) Huerta of San Luis Obispo, Henry (Martha) Huerta of Whittier, Angela (Miguel) Rendon of Greenfield and John (Michele) Huerta Jr. of Greenfield; 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
photo caption:Juan Huerta in the Salinas Valley during the 1970s.