Texas Farmworker: 1966 Strike ‘Was Like Heading Into War’


“Bathrooms were nonexistent; medical services were a fantasy. Even drinking water was a luxury.

“I remember we would drink from puddles left by the irrigation system, full of frogs and crickets,” Diaz says. “We would push the critters out of the way and drink from the puddles.”

Workers decided in the spring of 1966 to walk off the job. Union leaders from California — including Cesar Chavez — came to Texas and helped organize the strike.

“It was like heading into war,” Diaz says, “because ranchers were not budging.”

Indeed, ranchers dissed the farmworkers’ demands and called in the Texas Rangers.

“They used to beat us up and would arrest us,” Vera says.

But even beatings and arrests failed to break the strike. So ranchers opted for a different route. They started busing in workers from Mexico.

Strikers knew their only hope for success was to damage the ranchers financially. To do that, they blocked the U.S.-Mexico bridge in Roma, Texas.