JUAN DE LA CRUZ
1913 – 1973
A native of the state of Aguascalientes in Mexico, Juan De La Cruz came to the state of New Mexico under the Bracero Program. Later he brought his family to the U.S. and they traveled from place to place as migrants searching for work.
They finally found year-round employment in Arvin where Juan worked at Roberts Farm for 14 years before his death.
In an interview, Juan’s wife, Maximina De La Cruz, said of those years, “Field work then was tough. There were no toilet facilities and no drinking water. The grower told us to pick faster and, if we didn’t speed up, we were fired. They paid us one dollar an hour.”
Juan De La Cruz joined the UFW when organizing started in his area in 1965. He knew that the Union was good for him and for his people. He had been a member of the Lumberman’s Union in Mexico and of the Construction workers in Texas.
Mrs. De La Cruz added, “It is better now with the Union. We have better wages and everything. We have a medical plan and insurance, paper cups and drinking water, toilets in the fields and twenty minutes rest periods during the day.”
Juan De La Cruz, a gentle man and quiet man, died after being shot while on a picket line which was strung out along the highway between Arvin and Weedpatch. As a caravan of scabs drove out of the fields, five shots were fired from a pickup truck. Juan, shielding his wife, shoved her to the ground, and was struck by a 22-caliber bullet just below his heart.
For the second time in one week, plans were made for a Farm Worker funeral. On the night of August 20, a candlelight procession was held in the city of Arvin, winding through the streets and ending at the Arvin city park where the wake was held.
On the following day, thousands of Farm Workers and supporters from throughout the country marched in a procession to the cemetery, following a funeral mass in the park.
A twenty-year-old Filipino worker, Bayani Advincula, was later arrested by Sheriff’s deputies and charged with murder. Advincula was identified as the passenger in a pickup truck, who lifted a twenty-two caliber semi-automatic rifle from the floorboard, and fired it into the picket line.
Advincula admitted firing the gun, but he said he was not shooting at people, claiming instead he was shooting toward the cotton fields. Advincula was freed on $1,500 bail and was later acquitted of all charges by a Kern County jury. The county paid for the cost of the trial.
STATEMENT BY CESAR E. CHAVEZ
Juan has not only given himself in life – but he has now given his only life on this Earth for us, for his children, and for all Farm Workers who suffer and who go hungry in this land of plenty.
We are here because his spirit of service and sacrifice has touched and moved our lives. The force that is generated by that spirit of love is more powerful than any force on earth. It cannot be stopped.
We live in the midst of people who hate and fear us. They have worked hard to keep us in our place. They will spend millions more to destroy our Union. But we do not have to make ourselves small by hating and fearing them in return. There is enough love and good will in our movement to give energy to our struggle, and still have plenty left over, to break down and change the climate of hate and fear around us.
We are going to win. It is a matter of time. Juan De La Cruz has not given his life in vain. He will not be forgotten. His spirit will live in each of us who decides to join the struggle and who gives love and strength to others.
Juan is a martyr in a just cause. We will give purpose and memory to his life and death by what we do. The more we sacrifice, the harder we work, the more life we give to the spirit of our brother, Juan De La Cruz.
JUAN’S DEATH CAME TWO DAYS AFTER THE KILLING OF NAGI DAIFALLAH. THE LEADERSHIP OF THE UNION DECIDED NOT TO RISK ANY MORE LIVES ON THE PICKET LINES. THE STRIKE WAS CALLED OFF AND FARM WORKERS BEGAN THE LONG TREK TO THE CITIES OF AMERICA TO ORGANIZE THE SECOND GRAPE BOYCOTT.