It is with sadness that we observed the passing on Jan. 4 of Eugenio “Winnie” Arballo, 92, who dedicated a long life of service to the farm worker movement.
Much attention goes today to Cesar Chavez and other well-known movement leaders. But he was reluctant to be singled out for recognition in public because he knew there were countless men and women who stood up and made a difference through their genuine sacrifices and achievements even though their names are largely lost to history.
From the time he began his work of organizing the union Cesar was convinced everyone in the movement had something important to offer. Winnie Arballo was one of those who rose to the occasion.
Winnie was born in 1928 to humble beginnings in Pasadena, Calif. He labored in fields, mills, plants, coolers and packinghouses before discovering his calling with the farm worker movement. Winnie worked in the movement’s campesino or service centers. He became known up and down the West Coast as “Mr. ETG” (for El Taller Grafico, the United Farm Workers’ graphic production shop), selling all manner of UFW buttons, flags and other paraphernalia. He later lived and worked with Cesar at movement headquarters, what is now the National Chavez Center at La Paz in Keene, Calif.
“Many thought of the work of our movement as glamorous,” recalls Paul Chavez, Cesar’s son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. “But we remember Winnie as a no-nonsense guy who never labored under any illusions. Sometimes, when we would let our heads get too big, Winnie would let us know and keep us on the straight and narrow. He was a salt-of-the-earth person who reminded us who we really were and why we were struggling.”
Cesar would distinguish between those who are of service and those who are true servants. Many good people commit regular acts of charity or idealism in their daily lives. But only a relative few dedicate their lives totally to La Causa. By that definition, Winnie Arballo was a true servant.
We will not forget his name. We shall always be grateful for his selfless commitment and keep him in our hearts. Our prayers are with Winnie’s family, including his children Veronica Arballo (Eric Chavez), Charles Arballo (Dorena), Gina Martinez (Alex) plus nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.