Rachel Juarez Valencia

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I was fourteen-years-old living in Santa Rita with my parents. My sister’s husband and other workers went on strike at the Empire Zinc company. The men were hit with Taft Harley Injunction on their strike and so the women asked the men at a union meeting if they could do the picketing since they weren’t able to, because of the injunction. The men laughed at them. My dad, Bardomiano Juarez, would tell us everything that was going on. They voted to let the women take over after all. My father who was a member, came home and told me that I was going to be taking my sister’s place, because she was pregnant at the time and didn’t want her on the picket line. It was in the summer. I was out of school. Corina Rivera would pick me, Camerina Andazola and her two children up. Willie Andazola was one of the two children. Sometime during the summer, as the women were picketing, the district attorney Thomas Foy, gave the sheriff and some deputies permission to break the women’s picket line. We didn’t anticipate the violence that would come. As I was going around the circle, one of the cars that a deputy was driving caught me by surprise. As it was moving fast, the only thing I could do was hold on to the hood of the car the best way I could. I was able to hold on for approximately fifty feet. At that time, I knew I was either going to go under the car or I had to throw myself to the side of the road, which I did. As I lay on the ground, I could see some women coming to get me. I could see that a car had completely run over Mrs. Consuelo Martinez, an elderly lady of about seventy-five at the time. The women dragged me back to the side of the rode and the deputies started to arrest us. Some of the men who had been overseeing us, dragged Mrs. Martinez to the side of the rode so they wouldn’t run over her again. One of the men was shot on the leg because he was trying to help us. One of the deputies threw me in the back of his car and he took me to the Watts clinic in Silver City. I had a dislocated shoulder. They took care of it at the clinic and released me. The deputy drove me to the court house and into the jail. The jail cell where they put me was very overcrowded. The women moved the children and teenagers to the front of the cell, which had slats, so they could breathe better. A ninety-year-old lady named Bersabe Rosales was placed on a bed because she was ninety-years-old at the time and she was passing out. My dad heard about the violence in Hanover at his job at Kennecott in Santa Rita through the radio. He knew that I was supposed to be there and left his job to go to the court house to see what was going on. He did not know I was hurt and was hoping I was not jailed. They let us out after many complaints from the community who became outraged about having women and children in jail because we had already spent three to four hours in the crowded jail cells. My father had to sign release papers and was given a court date as was everybody who had been jailed. The strike ended with the violence and the jailing of the union officials and the women and the children. I can still see the jail cell from the street to this day because it’s in the center of the court house and I can see the window to the cell where we were.

The film Salt of the Earth took place later, but my father did not allow me to be in the film because I had to be in school. I have not watched the film because it is very traumatic for me, but I have spoken to many historians, authors, filmmakers, radio personalities about my experiences of the Empire Zinc strike. I cannot relate to the film because I know nothing about it. I participated at the sixtieth anniversary of the Empire Zinc Strike, which was held at Western New Mexico University.

Years later after retiring from teaching, I started substituting at Cobre High School in Bayard and some juniors in the art class asked me for permission to leave the school to go and do a painting somewhere in the community. I told them they had to bring permission from the principal, which they did. Years later, I found out that the painting they did was done on the outside of the Union Hall wall and it was a mural of the women picketers of the Empire Zinc Strike in Hanover, New Mexico, which included me. I saw the mural about fifteen years later during the sixtieth anniversary of the Empire Zinc Strike, I saw the names of the students that I had allowed out of class to do their art work. They did not realize that their mural included me as well.

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