MINING TOWN KIDS- WE’RE EVERYWHERE!
Small towns are like big barrios. People know and take care of each other. Which is why Arizona’s mining communities impress me greatly. That, and the people they produce. Some are two towns separated by a hyphen—Hayden-Winkelman, Globe-Miami, Clifton-Morenci—but for all practical purposes they are one community.
They are union towns, in which the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW), which became the United Steelworkers (USW), combined its labor function with civil-rights and community functions. The union fought the “Mexican wage” system, by which Mexican-descent workers were paid less than their white counterparts for the same work and desegregated public facilities. The union also organized Christmas parties for the kids, blood-donation and voter registration drives, and sponsored community-wide family picnics.
These towns are proud of their own. In Hayden, pictures of all the graduating classes are displayed on the walls of the high-school gym. Miami converted its old high school into a local history museum, which chronicles the town’s history. The contributions of the union stand out as does the memorabilia of local veterans—many of them decorated heroes—who fought in WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam.
The headquarters of the historic 1983 strike that pitted the Clifton-Morenci copper miners against Phelps Dodge and Democratic Governor Bruce Babbitt was the Morenci Miners United Steelworkers Local 616 Union Hall in Clifton. After the strike the union moved, and the hall was bought by Jeff Gaskin, who converted it into a museum of the union and the 1983 strike. A mural that chronicles the strike takes up one entire wall. The community’s pride in the history of the union and the unionists is impressive and moving.
These mining towns have produced some outstanding people. Maclovio Barraza, the late labor and civil-rights leader and founding Chairman of the Southwest Council of La Raza (which evolved into the National Council of La Raza), was from Superior.
The late Juanita Loroña, from Hayden, was a relentless campaigner against discriminatory laws and policies, including the common Arizona practice of allowing children of Mexican descent to swim in public pools only one day a week, after the white kids had used the pool for six days.
Winkelman gave us Cecilia “Ceci” Cruz, longtime civil-rights and political activist in Tucson and one of the founders of the Tucson Women’s Commission. Ceci is the daughter of one of the founders of the IUMMSW Local 886 in Hayden-Winkelman.
Alfredo Gutierrez is from Miami. First elected to the Arizona senate at age 25, Alfredo served as the majority and minority leader in the state senate. During the 1970s, as the Senate Majority Leader, Alfredo was arguably the state’s most powerful elected official.
Globe gave us Dr. Christine Marín, whose father was active in Miami Local 586 of the IUMMSW (later, the Steelworkers). Dr. Marín is a highly respected and nationally known historian and activist scholar who founded the nationally acclaimed Chicano Research Collection Archives at Arizona State University.
Between Globe and Miami is tiny Claypool, the hometown of U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor, who made history in 1992 as Arizona’s first Mexican American elected to Congress.
Morenci gave us the late Octavio “Tavi” Márquez, a lawyer who grew up in a union family. During the halcyon days of the Chicano Movement, when mainstream lawyers would not even talk to us because we were too “radical,” Tavi sought us out and became our lawyer, on a pro-bono basis.
From Bisbee hails one of the country’s most distinguished educators, Adalberto “Beto” Guerrero. Beto made history by spearheading the educational-rights movement in the 1960s that resulted in the U.S. Congress authorizing and funding Bilingual Education in American schools.
From Douglas came Tony Bracamonte, recently retired Dean of Student Services at South Mountain Community College (Phoenix). Tony put his college education on hold for two years to become a full-time organizer, for a stipend of $5 a week, for the Chicano Movement in Tucson. Tony’s signature is on the many political, social, educational, and economic changes brought about by the Chicano Movement.
Also from Douglas is Antonio D. “Tony” Bustamante. As a third-year law student Tony organized a national movement that led to the prosecution of the Hanigan brothers in Arizona for the torture of Mexican farm workers. This was an historical achievement in that this was the first time in our country’s history that the United States government brought a prosecution to vindicate the human-rights protections of undocumented workers who had been physically abused in the U.S.
I’m proud to be from Douglas also and to have worked alongside the two Tonys described above.
And Arizona’s first, and only, Mexican American Governor, Raúl Castro, is from Douglas.
As Christine Marín says: “Mining town kids: they love us or they hate us in Arizona…because we’re everywhere!”
Many of the people discussed above were and are involved in civil rights activism. I believe that is due to the culture of people standing up for what’s right, people helping people, etc., which the unions fomented in Arizona’s mining towns.
“Big cities” can learn much from the small towns. Maybe we should hire some of these fine folks as consultants to teach us about how to build community.
Copyright 2013 by Sal Baldenegro
To contact Sal: email@example.com