Jesús Marín Barrera

Jesús Marín Barrera

Jesús Marín “Marín” Barrera and others play music while Carolina Franco sings during the march to Sacramento, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

Jesús Marín “Marín” Barrera was born 1930 in La Havana, Texas. In 1950, he married Amelia Garza Ochoa from El Ojo de Agua in Abram, Texas, a fourth generation American of Mexican ancestry who had been born in 1926. They both worked at a canning factory in Mission, Texas until 1960 when the factory closed. The couple tried picking cotton in north Texas and Arizona, but it was not enough to support the family.
They moved to Porterville, California, where they found farm labor work picking various fruits. Because the money was not enough to support the family, Marín and Amelia needed to take their children to work in the fields. When this was still not enough to survive, the family became migrant farm workers traveling to Vernalis and Yuba City in the summer months picking apricots, plums and pears and working on tomato harvesting machines.
Their lives were transformed a few years after their arrival from Texas. Marín met Jim Drake from the Migrant Ministry and he urged Marín to form a farm workers union to seek better working conditions in the fields. Ultimately, this group of farm workers became the Porterville Farm Workers Organization (FWO).

The next year, they joined up with César Chávez and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). Chávez named Marín as the president of the local chapter and Marín’s home was used as an office. Marín, Amelia, and their entire family were passionate about their involvement and fought for the union with heart and soul. They engaged in extensive fundraising to support the strikers with collected food, clothing, and supplies. They picketed at local grocery stores, picketed in the fields, attended meetings and rallies, and led marches to homes of scabs.

Jesús Marín “Marín” Barrera holding his son Mario Barrera at a rally at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Hall , Porterville, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

César Chávez and Jesús Marín “Marín” Barrera regarding each other on the road to Sacramento, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

Marín prepared Porterville to receive the marchers on their way to Sacramento in 1966, organizing the community to greet, provide food and sleeping arrangements, and organize the rally. He accompanied the March as the accordion player to lift the spirits of the marchers. His wife, Amelia, was always at his side participating in all the activities and discussing strategy.

In addition to do union work, Marin was a community activist, serving on the board of El Futuro Organization, el Futuro Credit Union, and the Progresista. He participated in fundraising for scholarships and was later hired as a collector and then manager of the El Futuro Credit Union. He was Grand Marshal of the Cinco de Mayo parade. In his memory, his children, Yolanda, Marín, Annie and Mario have started a Foundation to work with a reading program in schools.

Yolanda Barrera On Farm Labor and Organizing in Porterville

Yolanda Barrera talks about doing farm labor picking oranges in Porterville and the role of parents and children. She also recalls when she met César Chávez for the first time, and how Jim Drake’s Migrant Ministry helped her father and others to establish the Farm Worker Organization of Porterville, with her father as president of the organization. This oral history interview was conducted by José Luis Benavides, Marta Valier, and David Grewe. The oral history was taped by David Grewe and Brandon Lien. This video segment was edited by Brandon Lien using photographs by John Kouns and additional photos and music courtesy of Yolanda Barrera.

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