After a personal appeal from Cesar Chavez, Carolina Holguin and her husband Carmen Holguin walked out of the vineyards during the 1965-1970 Delano grape strike. Over the next six decades, Carolina was a steadfast activist in nearly every major United Farm Workers’ strike, march, boycott, rally and demonstration from Bakersfield to Sacramento. It was with sorrow that the farm worker movement learned of Dona Carolina’s passing from natural causes on August 2 at age 88.
Carolina Vallado Holguin was born in 1931 in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico. Her family immigrated to El Paso, Texas and she married Carmen Holguin, with whom she had 10 children. They moved to California, settling in 1967 in the farm town of McFarland. The couple labored in almost every agricultural crop. They were working in table grapes when Cesar Chavez asked them to join the strike against Delano-area grape growers. Carolina and her husband joined union picket lines at struck vineyards.
In the decades that followed she played a role in almost every important UFW event and campaign. She helped organize farm workers in the fields. Carolina was arrested more than once advocating nonviolently for the union. She helped fellow workers bring in the UFW at the giant Jackson & Perkins rose company in the Wasco-Shafter area, winning a union contract under which she worked for several years before retiring from field labor.
She belonged to a small group of veteran activist women who regularly gathered to organize and participate with the union. It included Josefina Flores and Ruth Martinez.
Among her many efforts, Carolina helped achieve unemployment insurance for farm workers and enact California’s landmark 1975 farm labor law granting organizing rights to field laborers. She walked the 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento in 1994, to kick off a new UFW organizing drive. She was on the 2002 march from Merced to Sacramento that helped produce the UFW’s Binding Mediation law letting farm workers use state mediators to win union contracts when growers won’t negotiate them. She marched again for state rules now protecting agricultural workers from extreme heat. She helped pass the 2016 UFW-sponsored state law granting California farm workers overtime pay after eight hours a day. She pushed for federal immigration reform.
Carolina and her group often passed on the history they had lived by speaking with students, reporters and filmmakers.
“My mother was a farm worker herself and went through that hard life of working in the fields,” remembers her daughter Corina, speaking for the entire family. “She wanted rights for herself and others—simple things like clean, cool drinking water and clean restrooms in the fields instead of having to hide in grape vines or cotton fields to relieve herself. She wanted the right to have a work or lunch break instead of working all day without anything to eat. She didn’t want to be cheated out of her pay.”
“Carolina was one of the heroic women farm workers who starting in the 1960s helped build the first enduring farm worker union in American history,” affirms UFW President Teresa Romero. Carolina was “one powerful woman,” recalls UFW President Emeritus Arturo S. Rodriguez. “She was such a tireless and humble warrior,” adds union Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes.
Carmen Holguin passed away in 1999. Carolina passed away at home with her family on August 2, 2020.
Carolina Holguin is survived by her 10 children, Soledad, Sylvia, Carmen Jr., Irma, Lydia, Corina, Ricardo, Ruben, Raul and Xavier; 29 grandchildren; 43 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-granddaughter.
The internment service will be held at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, August 26, at North Kern Cemetery, 627 Austin St., Delano, Calif. 93215.
Photo of Carolina Holguin attending a recent UFW constitutional convention in Bakersfield.