DELANO, Calif. (KGET) – The history of the American farm labor movement begins and ends in the Central Valley of California and particularly in Kern County, where the 1965 grape boycott propelled working conditions into agriculture into the national consciousness.
From this movement, two individuals in particular rose to prominence, presented as both heroes and antagonists, depending on each person’s perspective: United Farm Workers founders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. But there is another character in this saga, one overlooked by history: Filipino-American farm labor leader Larry Itliong, who actually convinced Chavez and Huerta to put aside their doubts and continue the historic strike. five years.
Now that leader – Modesto Dulay Itliong, better known as Larry or, for seemingly literal reasons, “Seven Fingers” – is finally getting his due during this Philippine Heritage Month.
Ricardo Chavez, principal of the Morningside school, puts it this way: “Larry Itliong believed in equality, so…. we have to turn it around and say we have to make things level for him as well, because… he’s part of that movement.
Last week the WWII veteran was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, and this week Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring this Sunday as Larry Itliong Day. Now this: Itilong’s hometown of Delano, which has already decided to name a park for the union leader, will honor him with a mural to be unveiled on Monday at the school where his daughter, Patty Itliong Serda, is the school librarian.
“I believe my dad is a very important part of Delano,” she said, “because of the history he left here and his legacy. I believe his hard work and his passion come true. feel in this small farming community …. We see it every day in the fields The children here at our school, many of them, their parents are farm laborers.
The mural, painted over nine days by Eliseo Silva and funded by a donation from Blue Shield of California, is called Larry Itliong Story. It will be unveiled on what would have been Itliong’s 92nd birthday.
More than 4 million Filipino Americans live in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center – 1.6 million of them in California, including 16,000 in Kern County and 6,000 in Delano, where Itliong, born in the Philippines. , became known and is buried today. . Filipino Americans are the second largest Asian-American group in the country and the third largest ethnic group in California after Latinos and African Americans.
If few Filipino-Americans realized it before his late burst of fame, they should know it: Larry Itliong, who died in 1977 at just 63, was one of their most passionate and influential voices. And now he will have a colorful new honor in his adopted hometown.