'The Struggle to Defend Farmers in the U.S.'
(2012-07-10) 2012 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate Librada Paz was recently highlighted in the Spanish-language publication, La Opinión. In 'The Struggle to Defend Farmers in the U.S' (Lucha por defender a los campesinos en EEUU), Esmeralda Fabian compares Ms. Paz to Cesar Chávez and Dolores Huerta for her tireless work in defending the human rights of farmworkers. Said Ms. Paz, "I was one of them. How could I not get involved in this fight?"
In the article, Ms. Fabian also compares the struggle for rights in California with the struggle in New York state, where Ms. Paz works.
Read the article online in Spanish. English translation below.
Struggle to defend farm workers in the U.S.
Activist will be recognized this year with the prestigious RFK Human Rights Award
For Librada Paz, her priority is to defend farmworkers.
The violation of farmworkers human rights in this country is still not a thing of the past. The struggle for justice for these workers does not end with the legacy of activists like Cesar Chavez or Dolores Huerta.
For Librada Paz, tirelessly defending the human rights of farm workers has been her priority for the past 20 years. For this effort, this activist will be recognized this year with the prestigious RFK Human Rights Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
"I was one of them, how could I not get involved in this struggle," said Paz when sharing with La Opinion about the start of her activism to protect the rights of farmworkers in this country with Rural Migrant Ministry (RMM), since her time in high school. When she was 15, she emigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico to the fields of California, Florida, and later to New York where she had to share housing with as many as 16 people.
"You know from the outset that the treatment you receive is simply wrong," says the activist about her time as a farmworker. "You start to fight for your rights and simply stay there because you don’t want someone else to pass through the same," explained Paz about her tireless work at RMM, an organization that for over 30 years has focused on eradicating systematic human rights violations that farmworkers in the United States face every day.
It was in the fields of New York, where she experienced firsthand, with her family, the abuse and injustices.
"The truth is that this situation has not changed much since I came to this country till now," said the leader of the Campaign for Justice for Farmworkers (JFW) of RMM. "It bothers me when I hear it said that the abuse no longer exists for these workers. I know it exists. They are still paid very low wages, no overtime and live in unacceptable conditions ... without access to basic things like water," noted Paz.
After decades of movements for the defense of human rights of farmworkers in California, Paz says there has been progress but there are still inequities in the treatment the y receive. "Working conditions in the apple orchards in California are not so different than they were 20 years ago, when my brother worked there. But there have definitely been improvements," she added. But her struggle has focused on improving working conditions of farmworkers in New York, who in the opinion of Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center, daughter of the late politician Robert F. Kennedy, have not benefited from improvements in other states.
"Since the 30s, farmworkers in New York have been excluded from the same equal rights and protections that other workers have had for generations. Paz will be an unparalleled leader in our campaign for fair employment rights for farmworkers that we will take from the field to the Capitol," said Kennedy.
"My father cared deeply about those who plant and harvest our food, and I am immensely proud that the judges have chosen to honor Paz with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award,” she added.
Paz expressed that to be distinguished with this award is "wonderful and an honor," and hopes that this recognition will give more public awareness to her cause.
English translation provided by Christine Ortiz.