CALEXICO, Calif. – A local farm worker was remembered on Saturday at a special ceremony.
A large group of people came out to remember Rufino Contreras, a farmworker killed 40 years ago. He’s buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Calexico.
Teresa Romero, President of United Farm workers Union, said there’s been many sacrifices made to advance the farm workers’ cause.
“Rufino Contreras represents what many people sacrifice. Obviously, he gave his life for the movement,” Romero said.
Contreras was 27 years old when he was shot to death on a farm worker’s union picket line at a local field on February 9, 1979.
“Without the pioneers that we had like Rufino Contreras we would not be here with the accomplishments that we have achieved for farm workers,” Romero said.
He was part of thousands of farm workers statewide striking at that time for better working conditions.
“Farm workers did not have the right to have some shade when the temperatures get so high especially in this area. A bathroom. Overtime,” Romero said.
Contreras’s son, Julio Cesar Contreras, said he was moved by the ceremony for his father. He was quick to point out that other farm workers working towards better conditions deserved credit as well.
“It wasn’t the sacrifice of just one person, it was the sacrifice of all those people at that time, but unfortunately it was my father who was hit by that bullet which took his life. But it’s not just my father, there have been several martyrs in the cause,” Julio Cesar said.
Paul Chavez, son of Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm workers Union, said they’ve come a long way since then.
“forty years ago, when Rufino was slain, it was a time of sadness. But, also, when you look at his life, you see that he as a person of courage, and he worked to not only to improve his own life but also to help the entire farm worker community here in el Valle Imperial. It was through that hardship that we now see that there’s benefits for farm workers. But, more than that, the sons and daughters of people that were able to persevere through these times are now taking their place in society and these are the posts that we now see being elected to city council and board supervisors,” Chavez said.
He said people should never forget where they come from.
“It’s important that we remember those that have come before us,” Chavez said.
Organizers of the memorial said they would also like to build a memorial to give honor to all the farm workers in general.