Local News

Highlands County woman recalls meeting labor leader

LAKE PLACID - Highlands County resident Sue Clark said she hopes to see the recently-released move, "Cesar Chavez," that tells about the life of the labor leader she met more than 30 years ago.

Clark, who is now sells real estate, recalled that as a young woman she joined VISTA, a program in which participants work in impoverished rural or urban areas and help organize programs that reduce poverty in those communities.

Clark, who grew up in an affluent community, said she was sent to south central Colorado where farm workers earned their living on potato farms. Those workers were not paid well and often lived in substandard conditions, she indicated.

During that year, she said, she heard about Chavez and his efforts to create the National Farmworkers Association to improve wage and living conditions.

She and some other people from Colorado visited Chavez to learn about his efforts.

"I remember him to be very humble man," she said. His office was very small and a poster on the wall was entitled, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

"He was their (the farmer workers) bridge," Clark said.

She said that it was clear to her that while Chavez had a lot of passion for helping the farmworkers, he was not always the spokesperson for the movement.

Clark said she also met Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association. Huerta tended to be more vocal, she said.

"She had a very strong personality," Clark said. "She was more like his mouthpiece. But you could tell where the passion came from."

After she ended her visit to California, she said, she remained in awe of Chavez.

"I felt like I would never meet anyone like him again," she said.

When she returned to Colorado, the workers on the potato farms went on strike, she said. Clark said she was removed from VISTA for supporting the workers in the strike. Nevertheless, she said, she stayed another year in Colorado.

Clark said she grew up in the Midwest, far from the potato farms and the poverty of the farmworkers.

She joined VISTA when she was in college. She studied sociology and became bored with school, deciding she wanted to get out into the world.

But, she said, she never imagined the poverty in the rural areas.

"I never thought that people lived like that," Clark said.


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