Carolina Franco

Carolina Franco

Carolina Franco picketing at a Perelli-Minetti vineyard, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Carolina Franco was born in New Mexico in 1943 of Mexican and Cherokee heritage. Her family moved to California after her father died. They harvested prunes and plums in the coastal areas and picked cotton and grapes in the San Joaquin Valley. While in school, she worked during late spring and summer, but in her sophomore year, she quit high school and worked full time to help support her family.


She was working at the Bianco Ranch when she joined the grape strike. “I was twenty-two when I [first] worked with the union in the Delano area,” she said. She participated in picket lines and marched to Sacramento as one of the original marchers. Before arriving in Philadelphia, she had gained experience in the Los Angeles, New York, and Boston boycotts.

Carolina Franco (wearing a hat) and others sit on a bench and smile during the march to Sacramento, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

Carolina Franco holds a candle at a rally during the march to Sacramento. She is wearing a large hat, and a crucifix and rosary hang from her neck. Modesto, California, April 1, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

Carolina Franco holds a candle at a rally during the march to Sacramento. Modesto, April 1, 1966.

“This is Carolina Franco and she was a very enthusiastic union member. She’s holding a candle. I think this was taken in Modesto. Every night we would stop somewhere and there would be a meeting. If there was a hall, we’d go to the hall, otherwise we’d hold it on the back of a truck if there was no place else. The Plan for Delano would be read and the Teatro would perform and music and songs would be sung and stating what we were going to be doing the next day. It was a wonderful thing.”- John Kouns

Photographers Jon Lewis and John Kouns were the only two photographers who marched from Delano to Sacramento with the group of original marchers.  This image of Carolina Franco by John Kouns was published as the cover photo of the union newspaper El Malcriado, on July 14, 1966. Carolina Franco recalled in an interview with Radio Bilingüe on the 50th anniversary of the march, that thanks to photos like this one she became known as the “Adelita” of the movement. Her appearance made people remember the women who participated in the Mexican Revolution of 1910. After the march and asking permission from her mother, Franco, who also sang, joined and toured the country with El Teatro Campesino.

Doug Adair, then editor of El Malcriado, remembers the controversial reaction to this as a cover photo: “We ran a beautiful cover of Carolina Franco, in a big Mexican hat, holding a candle during a mass. While the membership loved it, it provoked an enraged visit by Ross and Chavez to our office. Ross gave me a tongue lashing, that the union was trying to project a less Mexican and Catholic image, and that this cover of the paper undermined everything that they were saying.”


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