This is the third in a series of articles remembering the Texas Farmworkers Union “March For Human Rights” of 1977. Specific details and nuances on the march not covered in this story will be further explored in future installments. This week we will take a look and focus on the famous banner carried by Claudio Ramirez.
“Eran 30 campesinos que empezaron a marchar,
Ivan señoras y niños y la Virgen de San Juan,
Decía Claudio Ramirez, el que marcaba el compás,
Son 20 millas por día las que tenemos que andar.”
– Marcha del Campesino by Esteban Jordan.
In the months of February and March of 2017, South Texas College in McAllen, Texas, held a special exhibit to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Texas Farmworkers Union march from the Rio Grande Valley to Washington, D.C., in 1977. The group marched more than 2,000 miles starting on Feb. 22, 1977, demanding human rights for farmworkers and to repeal ‘Right to Work’ laws protected in the Taft-Hartley Act.
One of the now iconic symbols for the Texas Farmworkers Union, and the march itself, was a “Virgen” banner that led the way, carried proudly by TFWU leader, Claudio Ramirez.
“My dad was very religious and believed strongly in ‘La Virgen de Guadalupe,’” said Norma Ramirez, also part of the TFWU family and daughter of Claudio Ramirez. “He created this banner himself believing and having faith in ‘La Virgen,’ that if her image was among them throughout the march, she would protect them and bring them back home safely. So he made a promise to ‘La Virgen’ that he would carry her image all throughout the march; asking her for protection and guidance. That is why he lead the march, so the Virgen could be in front and protect them. That is why no one would ever walk in front of the banner with the image of ‘La Virgen.’”
The legendary banner recently was one of the many items on display at South Texas College. Norma, Alejandro Rosel, and Abel Orendain were some of the people that spoke at the opening reception in February.
During the march, it got lost, according to Norma.
“The weird thing is that like two days after dad ended up at the hospital, the banner got lost and no one could find it,” Norma said. “It was lost for about four days and those were the days dad couldn’t walk due to his injured feet (that he suffered from the march). Well, guess what, unexpectedly the banner appeared at a place they had already looked for it, so dad picked it up and started marching again with the image heading the march again.”
The TFWU group arrived at Washington, D.C. on September 5, 1977. The banner would go on to be immortalized in Esteban Jordan’s pair of songs and the “Hasta La Gloria” painting by Luis Guerra.
“Forty years later, I am amazed and feel great satisfaction,” said Norma, who was also part of the march. “My Texas State Senate Certificate (for the march) and the “Virgen” banner are my greatest possessions, because of the history behind them.”