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Original marchers assemble to mark 50 years to the day Delano-to-Sacramento trek changed America

10 a.m. mass, 11 a.m. ceremony, Thursday, March 17 in Delano

Original marchers assemble to mark 50 years to the day Delano-to-Sacramento trek changed America

Historic pilgrimage by Delano grape strikers marked a milestone in the history of a union, a people and a nation

Delano, Calif.—These men and women are elderly now as they gather to remember one of the seminal events in American civil rights history: 50 years to the day when 75 Latino and Filipino grape workers led by Cesar Chavez—six months into their five-year-long strike—set off from Delano on March 17, 1966 for a 340-mile march, or pilgrimage, to place generations of farm worker grievances before the governor and Legislature in Sacramento. By the time they were greeted at the state Capitol by 10,000 people 25 days later on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1966, the marchers—or peregrinos (pilgrims)—had also placed the farm workers’ plight squarely before the conscience of the American people.

A few hundred people are assembling at the historic “Forty Acres” property outside Delano on Thursday for a 10 a.m. Catholic mass and an 11 a.m. ceremony sponsored by the United Farm Workers to mark that historic milestone. Among them are more than a dozen of the original full-time marchers plus family members of those who passed away and others who joined the trek part time 50 years ago. The MC of the program is a 1966 marcher, famed playwright and film director Luis Valdez, founder of El Teatro Campesino that performed street theater and songs during the pilgrimage. Also attending are present-day Latino and Filipino community members.

By the time marchers reached the state Capitol’s west steps they also celebrated another landmark victory that occurred during the trip: negotiating a union contract with the Schenley Industries wine grape company, the first genuine contract between a grower and a farm workers union in U.S. history.

The drama of the ’66 march to Sacramento—and the strikers’ sacrifice it symbolized—focused national attention on the farm workers’ cause that later translated into millions of people joining La Causa by boycotting grapes and other products. Chavez and the Delano grape strikers also inspired generations of Americans to social and political activism that can be seen across America today.

See this image from the 1966 Delano-to-Sacramento march:

Who: A few hundred people, including dozens of full- and part-time 1966 marchers and their families; playwright/director Luis Valdez; UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez; civil rights and farm labor icon Dolores Huerta; Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez; Latino and Filipino activists.

What: Catholic mass and ceremony honoring the original Delano-to-Sacramento marchers, or peregrinos, 50 years to the day after the grueling 25-day, 340-mile trek began.

When: 10 a.m. mass, 11 a.m. ceremony, Thursday, March 17, 2016.

Where:  The historic Forty Acres property, 30168 Garces Hwy. (corner of Mettler Ave.), Delano 93215.