At 87, Dolores Huerta still has a quite a pair of lungs on her.
“Who’s got the power?” she yelled from the stage at Saturday’s 25th annual César Chávez march and fiesta.
“We’ve got the power!” a crowd of hundreds gathered at the National Hispanic Cultural Center shouted back.
Huerta joined marchers through the streets of Albuquerque and was the keynote speaker during the fiesta that followed.
Starting in the 1950s, Huerta worked closely alongside labor activist César Chávez fighting for farm workers’ rights.
Chuy Martinez, a member of the Recuerda a César Chávez Committee that organized the event, said attendance at the march appeared to be at an all-time high.
“It’s been great to have all this support from people from all walks of life,” Martinez said.
Saturday’s celebration often took on a distinctly political tone.
During her remarks, Huerta encouraged New Mexicans to get out and vote during the upcoming election.
“One of the things that César always did was make sure to go door to door and register people to vote,” she said.
She also lamented the current political and social climate in the United States.
“It’s a shame that people throughout the United States do not know about our history and our contributions to these United States of America,” she said. “Because if they did know, then our president could not get away with the attacks on Mexicanos that he has been doing.”
Democratic candidates for state and federal offices were out in force at the event.
Among them were U.S. 1st Congressional District candidate Debra Haaland and gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca. Representatives from several other campaigns were also present.
“I would love to see (Republican candidate for governor) Steve Pearce here,” said David Blacher, sporting a Michelle Lujan Grisham T-shirt. “I think they missed the point, because these people will have a choice.”
But Virginia Calderon wasn’t there to support any politician.
Instead, she had traveled to Albuquerque to show support for her “hero,” Huerta herself.
“If not for Dolores Huerta, he (César Chávez) wouldn’t have been able to get it done,” Calderon said. “She was right there in the middle of everything.”
Calderon, her parents and grandparents all worked farms in California and she was involved in Chávez’s and Huerta’s movement from the beginning.
“I got involved, knowing what it was like to be in the fields,” she said, citing no bathrooms or access to running water and excessive exposure to pesticides.
“I always have, always will support the Farmworkers Union because if it wasn’t for them, we’d still be where I was when I was in the fields.”