online book
Xavier Timoteo Martinez
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Mexican War
World War II
Chicano Movement

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Mexican Americans in California:

Forty Acres
Delano, Kern County

Located in northern Kern County, Forty Acres, purchased by the United Farm Workers' Union in 1966, contains four structures: an administration center, first built and dedicated to Roy Reuther in 1969; a garage, built in memory of Mrs. Zapa; a health clinic, dedicated to the memory of Rodrigo Terrones; and Agbayani Village, a retirement home for Filipino farmworkers dedicated to Paulo Agbayani, who died on the picket line in 1966. The four brick and stucco structures were constructed between 1969 and 1974 with volunteer labor. The clinic and village are all brick with tile roofs, and the administration center is brick with an aluminum roof. Before purchase by the UFW, Forty Acres was vacant alkali land.

The United Farm Workers' Union's 40 acres of land and the four buildings designed and constructed with volunteer labor on this acreage represent a historic, victorious culmination of farmworkers' efforts to establish their own union. Earlier attempts to organize farm laborers were thwarted by organized opposition of agribusiness interests, by repression, and by exclusion of agricultural laborers from the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which gave all other American workers the right to organize and to conduct collective bargaining. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers' Organizing Committee (later the UFWA then the UFW, AFL-CIO), who began organizing farm laborers in the 1960s, met with unprecedented success. Not only did they organize a national labor union of farmworkers, they are also largely responsible for passage of the first agricultural labor relations act in the history of the United States. The ALRA, enacted in California in 1975, gave farm laborers the right to organize and bargain collectively, and other protections that non-agricultural workers have had since 1935. The UFW, then, is a historic, precedent-setting organization.

Located in Delano, Forty Acres is further historically significant because Delano was the original site of the 1965 grape strike that led to the UFWOC's joining with striking Filipino workers to form the UFWA, and to the union's organizing a national boycott of table grapes. For five years, the Delano strike and grape boycott was the testing ground for the new farmworkers' union. The historic first contracts were signed with a farmworkers' union that was organized, led, and directed by farmworkers. These contracts were signed in 1970.

Also significant about Forty Acres is the fact that the buildings were constructed by farmworkers them selves, along with help from other unions and other volunteer labor. The Paulo Agbayani Retirement Village, the largest building at Forty Acres, is particularly important. It was built specifically for the benefit of retired Filipino farmworkers, most of whom came to California during the period of anti-Asian sentiment. These Filipino workers were not allowed to bring wives from the Philippines, and once on the mainland United States, they were confronted by anti-miscegenation statutes and were unable to marry.

Having left their youth and their strength in California's verdant valleys, these Filipino farmworkers were nevertheless ineligible for Social Security benefits until the early 1970s because farm laborers were not covered. They had no family on the mainland to care for them and little to keep them from destitution. The Paulo Agbayani Village is now home for more than 70 single Filipino men.

In essence, Forty Acres is a visible manifestation of the campesinos' struggle to organize their own union, to bargain collectively, to labor with dignity, to receive benefits (including Social Security and health care), and to determine their own destiny. It is a site of primary importance in California's farm labor history.

Forty Acres
Forty Acres, Delano, Kern County

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