Hispanic Heritage Month: Delores Huerta, Linda Ronstadt, and Guy Galbadon

Compiled and written by Adrian Clark, RVU Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Delores Huerta

Delores Huerta is a labor leader and civil rights activist who organized the Delano grape strike in 1965 and, with Cesar Chavez, founded the National Farm Workers Association.

Delores was born in Dawson, New Mexico in 1930. Her father originally worked in a coal mine but became a migrant worker, harvesting beets in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. After the divorce of her parents, she moved with her mother and brothers to Stockton, California where her mother became the owner of a restaurant and a hotel. Huerta identifies her mother as the inspiration for her involvement in civil rights. Her father remained in New Mexico and was elected to the state legislature.

After college, she immersed herself in community organizing. Along with Fred Ross, she created the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization in 1955 which advocated for improved working living conditions for Latino farm workers. She also co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association in 1960. In 1962, she worked with Cesar Chavez to establish the National Farm Workers Association. This organization later merge with the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. In 1966, she negotiated the first agreement farm workers had ever had with an agricultural company. Until 2018, she was the only woman to sit on the board of this organization.

In addition to her efforts at organizing farm workers, she has also been active in advocating for laws to improve the lives of farm workers. As a result of her participation in non-violent protests and marches, she has been arrested twenty-two times. In 1988, she was severely beaten by a police officer during a peaceful protest in front of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. The beating, which was nationally televised, injured her gravely but also resulted in a large financial settlement from the city and a revision of their crowd control procedures. She donated her settlement to farm worker-aid activities.

In 2002, she established the Delores Huerta Foundation using a $100,000 award she received from the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. She has received many honors and awards including fifteen honorary doctorate degrees and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

A phrase she initiated, “Si se puede”, was paraphrased and used by President Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign: “Yes, we can.”

She has been married twice and is the mother of nine children.

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt is a retired singer who has successfully performed in multiple musical genres including rock, pop, theater, country and Latin. During her career, she became one of the most awarded female singers in American music history.

Ronstadt was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1946 to a prosperous family with deep historical and cultural influence in the state. Her father operated a machinery company and her mother was the daughter of a multi-millionaire inventor. Her ancestors immigrated from Mexico and became prominent in the state’s business community.

Ronstadt started her music career as lead singer of a group called the Stone Poneys in the mid-sixties but by the end of the decade, she had ventured out as a solo artist. Although initially billed as an alternative country singer, she released three successive albums that established her as the “First Lady of Rock,” and she became the first female rock star with the ability to fill arenas. She was voted the Top Female Rock Star of the 1970s and appeared multiple times on the cover of Rolling Stone, as well as the covers of Time and Newsweek. During this period, she also had enormous success as a country-rock artist. By the end of the decade, she had become one of the biggest rock stars in the world.

In the 1980s, she collaborated with popular music composers and had platinum selling albums. She also received a Tony nomination for her Broadway performance in the “Pirates of Penzance.” In 1987, she recorded “Canciones de Mi Padre”, an album of Mexican folk songs which won a Grammy for Mexican American Album and reached double platinum status in sales. She later produced and performed in a stage show based on this recording. A follow-up to this album, “Mas Canciones” also received the Grammy Award. She also recorded a Grammy winning album of Afro-Cuban songs.

Ronstadt continued singing to audiences all over the world until 2011 when she retired because of a degenerative illness, progressive supranuclear palsy. In 2019, “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” was released which chronicles her life and career.

Linda Ronstadt has won eleven Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, and an Emmy. She has received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She has been nominated for both Tony and Golden Globe Awards. She has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the Kennedy Center Honors for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2019.

Guy Gabaldon

Guy Gabaldon (aka “The Pied Piper of Saipan”) was an American World War II hero who, at 18 years of age, was credited with capturing more than 1,300 Japanese prisoners during the battles of Saipan and Tinan in 1944.

Gabaldon was born in Los Angeles in 1926 and grew up on the streets in the area known today as East L.A. He earned money by shining shoes and joined a gang. At the age of twelve, he left home and began to live with a Japanese American family, the Nakanos. While living with the Nakano family, he learned both the Japanese culture and language.

When the war began, the Nakano family was sent to an interment camp in Wyoming and Gabaldon traveled to Alaska to work in a cannery. At age 17, he joined the Marine Corp and, after training, became assigned to the 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division as a scout and observer. In 1944, Gabaldon became one of more than 127,000 United States military personnel to invade Saipan.

According to Gabaldon’s account, he began taking prisoners on his first night, using what he called his “backstreet Japanese”. Although he was reprimanded by his superiors for leaving his post, he went out the next night and returned with fifty prisoners who he had persuaded to surrender after killing two Japanese guards and convincing the remaining soldiers that they were surrounded.

On his third day in Saipan, this time with the permission of his superiors, he captured two enemy soldiers. He persuaded one of his prisoners to return with him to the enemy camp. His prisoner helped him arrange a meeting with the Japanese commander who agreed to a surrender of his eight hundred soldiers to the young Gabaldon. He turned all these prisoners over to U.S. military personnel. These exploits, along with his subsequent actions, earned him the nickname of “The Pied Piper of Saipan.”

Although some observers have taken issue with Gabaldon’s exploits, his commanding officer recommended him for the Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing more than 1,500 prisoners single-handedly. He was awarded the Silver Star but in 1960, his award was upgraded to the Navy Cross—the nation’s second highest military honor. That same year, a movie about his exploits was released, entitled, “Hell to Eternity”.

Guy Gabaldon died in 2006 of heart disease

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