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Genaro (“Gemo”) Lizama was a fearless organizer with the UFW

Genaro (“Gemo”) Lizama was a fearless organizer with the UFW

A fearless organizer whose “amazing” activism with the United Farm Workers spanned three decades, Genaro (“Gemo”) Lizama, 81, passed away peacefully at home in Soledad surrounded by family on November 29, reports UFW Vice President Lauro Barajas.

Genaro was born in 1941 in Yucatan, Mexico, immigrated to the U.S. through the Bracero Program, and was a Monterey County resident since 1973. His UFW activism began when he worked under the protection of union contracts while laboring in Salinas Valley lettuce and vegetable fields during the 1970s and ‘80s. He spent five years in the ‘90s as a UFW organizer in the Salinas-Watsonville area during the union’s big strawberry organizing drive.“

He had no fear,” Lauro Barajas observes. Anti-union foremen and supervisors sternly resisted UFW organizing in the berry fields, inciting some workers, and ordering them to threaten union organizers as a means of intimidating other workers in their crews. At one strawberry field, the anti-union foremen had these workers—called contras—draw a line in the dirt and tell Genaro, “You cannot pass this line, or we will beat you up!”

Genaro just walked past the line they drew. The contras backed down.

Genaro Lizama was also funny and personable, a pleasure to work with, Lauro Barajas says.

He is survived by his wife, Elsy Lizama; six children—Lupe Lizama, Pilar Lizama, Judi Lizama, Araceli Lizama, Laura Lizama, Sulma Lizama; 14 grandchildren; many great-grandchildren; and siblings Jesus Lizama and Amado Lizama.