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Hispanic Heritage Month: A conversation about advocacy with activist Dolores Huerta

Hispanic Heritage comes in many forms. Activist Dolores Huerta says it goes back generations in New Mexico.

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Sept. 15 marked the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Albuquerque sister station KOAT spoke with Dolores Huerta about advocacy work for people of color and what it means to be proud of her roots. Huerta has spent more than 50 years organizing peaceful demonstrations in the U.S.

Advocating for farmworkers, immigrants and women in the United States, Huerta worked alongside Cesar Chavez creating the United Farm Workers Union.

Her work prompted a consumer grape boycott that eventually led to the Agricultural Relations Act in 1975 which allowed farmworkers to bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Even with these accomplishments, the outcomes were not always peaceful.

"I was badly battered. I had my ribs broken, pulverized my spleen, and I almost died for doing a peaceful protest," Huerta said.

We are still seeing similar protests. In the summer of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement caused a stir throughout the nation.

Huerta said the idea of the role police officers have is oftentimes skewed within communities of color.

"Now police are seen not as protectors. They're looked on as predators because they go into neighborhoods looking for people that they think might be doing something wrong. And they do this racial profiling," Huerta said.

She said making sure future generations understand what came before is key to building our future.

"We know the contribution of our folks, the people from our ethnic group to society, it gives us a feeling of confidence that gives us a feeling of pride so that we can be proud of who we are," Huerta said.

In her case, her pride to be Latina goes back to her roots in New Mexico more than 14 generations ago. It started with the marriage of her Spaniard great-great grandfather’s marriage to a Pueblo Indian woman.

Huerta said in a recent Ancestry DNA test, "I found out that I have a great, great, great 14th generation grandmother named Ines, who was a Pueblo Indian, you know, and that fills me with so much pride."

She asks people to speak up and continue the fight against racism.

"We have to put these issues, the changes that we want have to be put into legislation, legislation, into a law that can be implemented, that can be enforced, and where people can be held accountable," Huerta said.