By Gloria Hernandez with Rosemary Moreno and Irene Serrano
(Editor’s note: Back in the early 1990s, there were a lot of droughts that disproportionately affected a lot of the campesina/o communities, especially women. As a result, the campaign to help other women came from Rosemary Moreno with the support of others like Gloria Hernandez, who were talking about the drought and previous freeze disasters and how they could help these women. They’re not in it for any special recognition or awards, and they are not paid for it. This is simply an act that comes out of necessity, and they acted on it. Now, more than 13 years later, there is still a need and there is still action to be taken.)
I remember back when mi amiga Moreno announced that she was going to adopt five girls. I laughed and told her you better buy stock in the sanitary paper industry. And although funny at that time, I didn’t realize how expensive it was to have that many daughters until I worked on the statewide campaign to try to raise the minimum wage for all workers.
There I was in Sacramento trying to explain to a bunch of campesinas that the best way to testify before the California Welfare Industrial Commission was to demonstrate how many hours it took to work to buy needed items like an Easter dress or a bunny that their kids wanted. At that time, the minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. The brave mujeres took the stand and testified that no they didn’t want such fancy items like bunnies but that to buy one box of Kotex required them to work for one hour. Imagine if there was need for more than one box each month?
In the early 1990s, a devastating freeze hit our valley. Many farmworkers were affected immediately. And although agribusiness took care of itself, getting disaster relief for campesinos was hard, just imagine, if you will, the anger I felt when a charity agency recommended that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) send the rent checks to the landlords because you know those people will take off and not pay the rent. I jumped up and started yelling, “Oh hell, is the Frito bandito back in town?” How dare they assume that the campesinos were thieves. Many of the campesinos were not eligible for any benefits due to the public charge allegations. Several of us did a campaign to focus on the self-esteem of the young girls who could not go to papa and ask him for money because there was little or no money for the needed supplies.
We are reaching out to professors, students and women’s groups to help us help the rural women and girls affected by the drought. Monetary donations are welcome, however, personal self-care and hygiene products for women and mothers such as diapers, tampons and razors, are highly encouraged because they can be hard to get access to and are expensive.
Below is a list of locations where you can drop off your donations:
- Immigration Assistance Service Center, 1435 Fresno St. Suite 13
- Californians for Justice, 946 N. Fulton St.
- 1625 E. Shaw Ave., Suite 106
For more information, call 559-485-3951 or 559-250-2434.
Gloria Hernandez is a longtime activist. Rosemary Moreno heads the Immigration Assistance Program, helping immigrants and migrants for more than 50 years. Irene Serrano is a member of the Fresno Brown Berets. All are mothers who have daughters.