In 1992, farmworkers in the Salinas Valley were discovered living in squalid and unsafe conditions in lean-tos and caves, without running water, heat or toilet facilities.
Salinas, CA, February 17, 2020 - In 1992, farmworkers in the Salinas Valley were discovered living in squalid and unsafe conditions in lean-tos and caves, without running water, heat or toilet facilities. The discovery became national news, giving rise to such headlines as “Harvest of Despair” and the living quarters facetiously called “Rancho de Cuevas,” or Cave Ranch.
It was a seminal and catalytic moment for the recently formed organization, Center for Community Advocacy, which had only been founded two years earlier and was trying to establish its identity and mission.
CCA’s initial mission was to give farmworkers a voice in their housing choices and conditions by empowering them to organize with fellow farmworkers and demand safer, healthier and livable housing. CCA did that by organizing and forming neighborhood committees in each labor camp and farmworker housing complexes who could then advocate for their own camps.
“That was a key moment in CCA history and catalyzed the creation of the CCA,” said CCA Executive Director Daniel Gonzalez about that shocking 1992 revelation. “It gave CCA the fuel it needed. CCA was initially about housing, but these cases themselves don’t define the CCA culture. We’re not just about giving out information, but to develop leadership so farmworkers can speak for themselves.”
That mission is distilled in CCA’s slogan, “Helping Farmworkers Help Themselves,” which now goes beyond just housing issues to include health and nutrition issues, safety, education and strengthening family relationships.
CCA’s daunting challenge after it was founded was crystalized in comments made by one of the early leaders of a neighborhood committee, Jesus Fernandez, who was quoted in a video made by CCA in the late 1990s: “We didn’t even know we had any rights.” That was a stunning revelation to the public at large, which may have taken these rights for granted and may not have been aware that members of its own community were denied these most basic of human rights.
Gonzalez cites two accomplishments in the past 30 years that further raised CCA’s profile and standing in the community: the creation of a joint board of directors that featured representation from all segments of the community, from farmworkers and farm owners to developers, community leaders, corporate leaders, members of the clergy, and elected officials; and the creation of VIVA, a coalition of all neighborhood committees that was also represented on the board.
That was in the early 1990s, when VIVA consisted of representatives from 10 neighborhood committees (or comités). That number is now 40 and still growing. The board at the time also included CCA’s co-founder, Lydia Villareal, who was Deputy District Attorney at the time and was involved in the 1992 labor camp case and is currently President of CCA’s Board of Directors. Other board members when CCA was founded included such community leaders as Basil Mills of Mills Distributing Co., Bob R. Nielsen, Vice President and General Counsel of Tanimura & Antle, Inc., attorney Vanessa Vallarta, developer Mike Fletcher and Sam Karas of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
One of the most significant figures in the founding and development of CCA has been Sabino Lopez, who has been at CCA from the onset in 1990, holding a variety of roles including organizer, deputy director, leader/organizer, and Interim Executive Director in 2017-2018.
Lopez led the development of CCA’s award-winning organizing model and for nearly three decades has served as a steward of the organization’s mission to develop and empower the farmworker community in the Salinas and Pajaro Valleys. He is currently CCA’s Deputy Director.
“We are bridge-builders, we work on both sides,” said Gonzalez, who became CCA executive director in November 2018. “We have these connections with farmworkers and growers. Everyone’s got a side, an issue and that’s what CCA is about. Giving access to people is key for this model to develop and to work.”
CCA’s early efforts not only brought to light the dangerous and unhealthy conditions of “Rancho de Cuevas”, but also of so-called “legal” labor camps in which farmworkers paid $500 a month in dilapidated units that were built in the 1920s and were only meant to be temporary housing, as well as a devastating 1991 fire in the Kent Court Camp outside of Watsonville that displaced six families. CCA filed suit on behalf of 33 families in that instance and got compensation for their losses.
Center for Community Advocacy
22 West Gabilan Street
Salinas, CA 93901
Marci Bracco Cain
Salinas, CA 93901
Company :-Chatterbox PR
User :- Marci Bracco Cain
Url :- http://www.cca-viva.org