Smithsonian Institution Exhibit Recaps the Life of Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta Exhibition Smithsonian BeLatina Latinx
John Kouns, 1966. Courtesy of the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center at California State University, Northridge

Telling the stories of our heroines has never been more urgent than now when new generations are taking up the baton of struggles we thought forgotten. That’s why the new virtual art exhibition “Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields/Revolución en los Campos” is more than timely.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution and Bakersfield College, in collaboration with the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the exhibit debuted Thursday, March 25, and will remain on view throughout the spring 2021 semester.

“Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields / Revolución en los Campos tells one of the compelling stories that helped define the American experience — the farm workers labor movement of the 1960s and 1970s,” we can read on the Bakersfield College’s Jones Art Gallery’s webpage. “The show draws on extensive Smithsonian curatorial research about legendary activist Dolores Huerta (b.1930).”

With a bilingual text, reproductions of photographs, and historical and personal documents, this exhibition explores Dolores Huerta’s public life as an activist and examines her life as a teacher, mother, communicator, organizer, lobbyist contract negotiator. 

The exhibition reveals the multi-ethnic aspects of the labor movement’s history, including Filipinos and African Americans’ significant participation.

The farmworker movement of the 1960s and 1970s advanced the cause of day laborers, many of whom were Mexican American and who had worked and lived in dire conditions. Its charismatic leader, Cesar Chavez, has rightfully earned a place in U.S. history. The exhibition will expand understanding of this movement through a careful look at the under-recognized contributions of Dolores Huerta, union co-founder, lobbyist, and contract negotiator on his behalf.

In association with the exhibit, and as part of the third annual Jess Nieto Memorial Lecture, a five-day conference honoring the late Bakersfield College Chicano Studies professor Jesus “Jess” Gilberto Nieto, Bakersfield College’s Social Justice Institute held a Zoom panel of the same name with Huerta as keynote speaker, The Renegade Rip reported.

 The event also featured Dr. Taína Caragol, curator of Latino art and history at the Smithsonian Institution.

“All of these problems that we have right now that you are living, they are not going to be solved unless you do it,” said Huerta. “You can’t wait for somebody to come and do it for you. The way we can meet these challenges is to come together as a group because one person can’t do it by themselves. We have to come together and take direct action. We are able to.”

Dolores Huerta also had advice prepared for those in attendance at the event. “The one thing I want to share with the students that are here today, the one thing that I did learn in all the work that I have done is that there is always somebody out there that will help you,” Huerta shared.  

“Everything that I did, I just asked somebody out there that was doing the work to tell me how they did it. That’s how I learned.”