“Canciones Por La Causa”

By Ricardo Parra

It’s Summer in Indiana. Each year, thousands of migrant farm workers come to Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and many other states to prepare the crops for harvest and pick them. As you read this story they are busy at work in fields.

The working and living conditions are often harsh. Standing up for the rights of farmworkers in our region of the country has been the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), AFL-CIO, based in Toledo, Ohio, under the leadership of Baldemar Velasquez, President of FLOC. Recently, Velasquez visited Indianapolis in April to talk to organizers interested in forming a coalition to help Latino workers organize and secure basic rights. Velasquez also spoke about the organizing drive taking place by FLOC in North Carolina.

Velasquez, a man of many talents, including music, has enlisted this wonderful talent to the service of the cause. Velasquez and his Aguila Negra Band have produced an outstanding CD, “Canciones Por La Causa,” with wonderful renditions of “Juan Charrasquiado,” “Paloma Negra,” “Canción Mixteca,” mixed with some great immigrant working class folks songs, such as “Deportees,” as well as some pieces like “Better than Nada, “Juan Sin Tierra,” and several others. The vocal and arrangements are superb, and Velasquez adds some interesting surprises with original Spanish lyrics by Luis Valdez arranged by Velasquez to a song like Woody Guthrie’s “Deportees.” The CD delivers great sound quality especially with the accordion, guitar and vocal combinations, and captures the sense and emotions of each song with powerful and poetic delivery.

Velasquez had to choose between being a lawyer, singer-musician, or organizer. He chose to be an organizer ­ and an excellent one, one of the best. For over thirty-three years, Velasquez has taken up the cause of farm workers.

The CD provides a beautiful small booklet that contains the lyrics to the songs along with a series of photos illustrating important historical moments in the history of FLOC.

Copies of the CD are available at the FLOC offices for $20.00 (+ $4.95 S/H). All Proceeds from the release benefit the farmworker boycott of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company. Contact FLOC at (419) 243-3456. To learn more about FLOC log-on to: www.floc.com

Or contact the FLOC National Office,1221 Broadway, Toledo, OH 43609, tel 419-243-3456, fax 419-243-5655, info@floc.com

To order online go to: www.floc.com/CDOrder.htm

Here in Indianapolis, the drive to help Latino workers organize is taking shape with the help of Central Indiana Jobs With Justice, a community group concerned with workers rights. It recently formed a Coalition for Immigrant Worker Rights.

While visiting the office of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) after the visit by Velasquez, I spotted a framed poster in the reception area that caught my eyes. It read:

“If you give me a fish, you feed me for a day. If you teach me to fish then you have fed me until the river is contaminated or the shoreline seized for development. But if you teach me to organize, then whatever the challenge, I can join together with my peers and we will fashion our own solution.”

Education is a form of power. And to teach people to organize and represent themselves is a powerful education. The great Latino labor leader, Cesar Chavez once said: “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”

So this summer and through the year it is expected that there will be greater movement to show support for our Latino workers and all workers as they attempt to organize and better their lives for themselves and their families.