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The Avena-Wilson Collection, no. 7 - Senators Yarborough and Mondale, Cesar Chavez (1969)

Richard Avena, Linda Wilson, Rebecca Avena

Silent | 1969

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  •  Senator Walter Mondale 
  •  Migrants In Action protesters 
  •  Senators Ralph Yarborough (L) and Mondale (R) 
  •  Labor Leader and Civil Rights Activist Cesar Chavez 
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This home movie captures scenes of United States Senators Ralph Yarborough and Walter Mondale conducting a senate committee hearing in Edinburg, Texas, followed by scenes of labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. On November 24, 1969, after touring migrant labor camps throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Senators Yarborough and Mondale held a Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare hearing on health problems of migrant workers at the Hidalgo County Courthouse. This home movie captures scenes of the hearing, as well as picketers from Laredo organization, Migrants in Action (MIA), outside the courthouse. Amid testimony from medical doctors, labor camp directors, citizens, and community leaders, tensions flared as MIA demonstrators booed Yarborough and walked out after being threatened with ejection from the hearing. Witnesses demanded aide as they testified to conditions for migrant workers in the region; there was only one doctor for every 2,324 residents in the region that approximately 158,000 migrant workers called home. Hidalgo County’s Director of Welfare Housing told the senators that if the United States could afford to send men to the moon, they could find money to take care of the nation’s poor people. Senator Yarborough likened the conditions he saw at the camps that day to those he had observed recently in Thailand, mentioning dirt floors and limited sanitary facilities. Yarborough and Mondale were working to introduce a bill that would amend the Migrant Health section of the Public Health Service Act by increasing the budget for migrant health problems $5 million per year to a maximum of $40 million by the end of the fiscal year in 1975. In 1969, approximately 76% of Mexican-American families working in the Rio Grande Valley were making less than $3,000 per year despite flourishing economies dependent on their labor. Following the hearing are brief scenes of Cesar Chavez visiting the Avena family in their San Antonio home. Donor Richard Avena was a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and likely had regular access to Chavez, who is seen here with Richard and toddler Rebecca Avena.