Radio Campesina

Does the name César Chavez ring a bell?  What if I mention grapes?

Back in the 1960s, the cause of the day within the Democratic party (other than the Vietnam war) was the Grape and Lettuce Boycott that were organized by Cesar Chavez, who was organizing farm workers in California.  The boycotts became very prominent during the 1972 Democratic Party convention – the one that nominated George McGovern, who was soundly defeated by Richard Nixon’s reelection.

As a community organizer, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Assocation (now called the United Farm Workers).   His group fought for better wages and working conditions for the people who did the work of picking the grapes and lettuce and other produce in California and Texas.

One thing mentioned rarely about immigration is that Chavez was very opposed to relaxing immigration policy.  He understood that having uncontrolled floods of Mexican immigrant farm workers pouring over the border would undermine his work to improve the wages and quality of life of farm workers.  The farm owners would just keep bringing in more people from Mexico to replace the “trouble makers” and bypass the organized farm workers.

What does any of this have to do with Radio?  One of the things the United Farm Workers did was to create a network of eight Spanish Language radio stations called “Radio Campesina” that stretches from Washington State to Arizona.    Campesina is a term which roughly means peasant farm worker.  This network of radio stations broadcasts music and news of interest to the Spanish speaking farm worker community.

A few days ago, I was updating the “Silent Station” list, and noticed that Radio Campesina had turned off the power to at least two of their  transmitters due to being unable to keep operating under the current economic conditions.  Unemployment in some of the agricultural areas of California is over 40%.  There are several causes, but one of the major reasons is farms being plowed under because the Federal Government is limiting irrigation to protect endangered species of fishRepublicans, are you paying attention? 

The number of Spanish language radio stations shutting down all over the country (or changing formats away from Spanish language) could be an indication that Mexican workers are returning “home” in significant numbers.  As the economy tightens and shipping costs went up, buying fresh out of season grapes may not be a necessity that people can afford or want.  Not many people are building new homes at the moment, either.

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