RIO GRANDE CITY - South Texas College’s Starr County Campus is built on what used to be far-spreading melon fields. They represented a huge cash crop for the growers, a source of work and income for local farm workers, but also a place of discrimination and injustice for Valley residents.

Due to these grievances, at the height of melon season in 1966, the farmworkers walked off of the fields and marched for better wages, better working conditions and civil rights that migrants and Mexican-Americans were not always afforded.

Prior to the strike, march, and farmworker movement the pay for the labor was only 40 cents per hour.

The protests began in Rio Grande City on July 4, 1966, and concluded three months later at the State Capitol in Austin with a subsequent rally on Sept. 5, 1966.

On Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, STC, community members and even some surviving protestors from 54 years ago were a part of the ceremony to unveil a historical marker designated by the Texas Historical Commission

“One of the things that has become very important for us, (even though) we dropped community out of our name some time ago, but we’ve never been stronger in community,” Starr County Industrial Foundation President and STC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Rose Benavidez said. “For us, it’s ensuring the generations who are transformed in our doors by being educated, also understand the richness of the culture and the richness of our own history.”

Two markers were unveiled, one in English detailing the event and another in Spanish along with the names of the farmworkers who made history.

“This is a poignant as it gets,” Benavidez said. “This is a place that used to be harvested by farmworkers and now you have their children and grandchildren walking across stages and getting degrees.”

The event was attended by students from nearby Grulla, Rio Grande City and Roma High Schools.

Joel Villarreal Mayor of Rio Grande City spoke along with U.S. Congressmen Henry Cuellar. They were joined on stage by former Texas United Farm Workers Director Rebecca Flores, former Texas UFW president Arturo Rodriguez and National Farm Worker Association member Daria Vera who offered first-hand knowledge about the mobilization of workers in the 1960s.

In a press release prior to the event the Texas Historical Commission called the movement a significant part of Texas History and awarded the marker through its Undertold Stories Program. It honors the birthplace of the Farm Workers Movement in Texas as an important and educational part of local history.