March 17, 1966 EL PLAN DE DELANO
CONTEXT: On September 16, 1965, the 6,000 members of the United Farm Workers Association voted to strike California grape growers for higher salaries and safe working conditions. By the beginning of 1966, Cesar Chavez, President of the Farm Workers Union, decided the strike needed a more visible presence and prepared for a peregrinación (pilgrimage) of farm workers from their headquarters in Delano, California to the California state capital of Sacramento. Along the way, the strikers would stop in towns of the San Joaquin Valley and make their case concluding with a presentation at the state capital. Chavez recruited Luis Valdez, head of the Farm Workers Theater, to draft El Plan De Delano which would articulate the reasons for the strike and the goals of the farm workers union. Working with Chavez’s ideas, Valdez based El Plan De Delano on the historic Plan De Ayala which Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata had declared on November 25, 1911 in which he laid out his revolutionary plan for agrarian reform in Mexico. On March 17, 1966, at the start of the march to Sacramento, the Plan de Delano was read to the assembled marchers and repeated at each stop along the way.
THE PLAN OF DELANO
PLAN for the liberation of the Farm Workers associated with the Delano Grape Strike in the
State of California, seeking social justice in farm labor with those reforms that they believe
necessary for their well-being as workers in the United States.
We, the undersigned, gathered in Pilgrimage to the capital of the State in Sacramento in
penance for all the failings of Farm Workers as free and sovereign men, do solemnly declare
before the civilized world which judges our actions, and before the nation to which we
belong, the propositions we have formulated to end the injustice that oppresses us.
We are conscious of the historical significance of our Pilgrimage. It is clearly evident that our
path travels through a valley well known to all Mexican farm workers. We know all of these
towns of Delano, Madera, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, and Sacramento, because along this
very same road, in this very same valley, the Mexican race has sacrificed itself for the last
hundred years. Our sweat and our blood have fallen on this land to make other men rich. The
pilgrimage is a witness to the suffering we have seen for generations.
The penance we accept symbolizes the suffering we shall have in order to bring justice
to these same towns, to this same valley. The pilgrimage we make symbolizes the long
historical road we have traveled in this valley alone, and the long road we have yet to travel,
with much penance, in order to bring about the revolution we need, and for which we present
the propositions in the following PLAN:
1. This is the beginning of a social movement in fact and not in pronouncements. We seek our basic, God-given rights as human beings. Because we have suffered–and are not afraid to suffer—in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything, even our lives, in our flight for social justice. We shall do it without violence because that is our destiny. To the ranchers, and to all those who opposes, we say, in the words of Benito Juarez, “EL RESPETO AL DE-RECHO AJENO ES LA PAZ.”
2. We seek the support of all political groups and protection of the government, which is also our government, in our struggle. For too many years we have been treated like the lowest of the low. Our wages and working conditions have been determined from above, because irresponsible legislators who could have helped us, have supported the rancher’s argument that the plight of the Farm Worker was a “special case.” They saw the obvious effects of an unjust system, starvation wages, contractors, day hauls, forced migration, sickness, illiteracy, camps and sub-human living conditions, and acted as if they were irremediable causes. The farm worker has been abandoned to his own fate—without representation, without power—subject to mercy and caprice of the rancher. We are tired of words, of betrayals, of indifference. To the politicians we say that the years are gone when the farm worker said nothing and did nothing to help himself. from this movement shall spring leaders who shall understand us, lead us, be faithful to us, and we shall elect them to represent us. WE SHALL BE HEARD.
3. We seek, and have, the support of the Church in what we do. At the head of the pilgrimage we carry LA VIRGEN DE LA GUADALUPE because she is ours, all ours, Patroness of the Mexican people. We also carry the Sacred Cross and the Star of David because we are not sectarians, and because we ask the help and prayers of all religions. All men are brothers, sons of the same God; that is why we say to all of good will, in the words of Pope Leo XIII, “Everyone’s first duty is protect the workers from the greed of speculators who use human beings as instruments to provide themselves with money. It is neither just nor human to oppress men with excessive work to the point where their minds become enfeebled and their bodies worn out.” GOD SHALL NOT ABANDON US.
4. We are suffering. We have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to win our cause. We have suffered unnumbered ills and crimes in the name of the Law of the Land. Our men, women, and children have suffered not only the basic brutality of stoop labor, and the most obvious injustices of the system; they have also suffered the desperation of knowing that the system caters to the greed of callous men and not to our needs. Now we will suffer for the purpose of ending the poverty, the misery, and the injustice, with the hope that our children will not be exploited as we have been. They have imposed hunger on us, and now we hunger for justice. We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. WE SHALL ENDURE.
5. We shall unite. We have learned the meaning of UNITY. We know why these are just that– united. The strength of the poor is also in union. We know that the poverty of the Mexican or Filipino worker in California is the same as that of all farm workers across the country, the Negroes and poor whites, the Puerto Ricans, Japanese, and Arabians; in short, all of the races that comprise the oppressed minorities of the United States. The majority of the people on our Pilgrimage are of Mexican decent, but the triumph of our race depends on a national association of all farm workers. The ranchers want to keep us divided in order to keep us weak. Many of us have signed individual “work contracts” with the ranchers or contractors, contracts in which they had all power. These contracts were farces, one more cynical joke at our impotence. That is why we must get together and bargain collectively. We must use the only strength that we have, the force of our numbers. The ranchers are few; we are many. UNITED WE SHALL STAND.
6. We shall Strike. We shall pursue the REVOLUTION we have proposed. We are sons of the Mexican Revolution, a revolution of the poor seeking, bread and justice. Our revolution will not be armed, but we want the existing social order to dissolve, we want a new social order. We are poor, we are humble, and our only choices is to Strike in those ranchers where we are not treated with the respect we deserve as working men, where our rights as free and sovereign men are not recognized. We do not want the paternalism of the rancher; we do not want the contractor; we do not want charity at the price of our dignity. We want to be equal with all the working men in the nation; we want just wage, better working conditions, a decent future for our children. To those who oppose us, be they ranchers, police, politicians, or speculators, we say that we are going to continue fighting until we die, or we win. WE SHALL OVERCOME.
Across the San Joaquin Valley, across California, across the entire Southwest of the United
States, wherever there are Mexican people, wherever there are farm workers, our movement
is spreading like flames across ad dry plain. Our PILGRIMAGE is the MATCH that will light
our cause for all farm workers to see what is happening here, so that they may do as we have
done. The time has come for the liberation of the poor farm worker.
History is on our side. MAY THE STRIKE GO ON! VIVA LA CAUSA!