A new exhibit at WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections showcases the fight by Mexican American migrant workers in southcentral Washington for better working conditions and wages. Titled “La Causa: Social Justice Activism in the Yakima Valley,” the exhibit opens with a reception at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, at MASC’s Terrell Library ground floor location.
“La Causa” (the cause/struggle) features the work of Seattle photographer Irwin Nash, who documented the plight of Yakima Valley farmworkers during the 1960s and 1970s. Nash’s 9,300 photos are now part of a digital collection, thanks to donations from the Yakima Valley migrant farmworker community, support from the WSU President’s Office, and a grant from Washington State Library and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The exhibit also spotlights the public figures that played important roles in the farmworkers’ movement, including civil rights attorney Michael Fox, United Farm Workers of America co-founders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and Yakima Valley organizers Lupe Gamboa, Tomas Villanueva, and the Trevino family.
“La Causa is the fight of Mexican American farmworkers in the United States to improve their working conditions and their lives,” according to Lipi Turner-Rahman, the exhibit’s curator. “Most people associate La Causa with California’s San Joaquin Valley and Cesar Chavez. Washington State has one of the largest Mexican American farmworker communities in the United States. The story of their struggle to improve their lives by organizing has often been marginalized. The struggle for better wages and working conditions erupted in a walkout and a hop strike in 1970. La Causa tells the story of that struggle and the strike.”