Julio Hernández

Julio Hernández

Julio and Fina Hernández talking with others at the credit union, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Born to a nominally well-to-do family in Santa Ana, Sonora, México on February 16, 1921, Julio Hernández learned hardship and injustice early on. When he was approximately eight years old, his father lost all his business ventures, changing the family’s quality of life for the worse. He witnessed many injustices and abuses suffered by workers, some of them perpetrated by his own father.

As a young adult in Sonora, Julio worked as a barber and as a carpenter. His life changed forever when he met and married Josefina, or “Fina” as she came to be known. Fina, a U.S. citizen, wanted to return to the United States, and so they returned, landing in Riverside, California where they lived briefly with one of her aunts. Soon, they moved to Corcoran, California, where Fina’s father found him agricultural work.

Hernández remembers that living conditions were difficult in Corcoran and any protest or union activity was harshly punished by large growers who were quick to blacklist farmworkers who sought to organize. In fact, Hernández, his wife Fina, and their children briefly lived in Oregon after he participated in a sugar beet strike against Sager in Corcoran. Both Julio and Fina were officers of the Community Service Organization (CSO) in Corcoran and Julio was a labor contractor.

Julio and Fina Hernández talking with others at the credit union, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Julio Hernández and his son Johnny walking during the march to Sacramento, 1966. Photo by John Kouns. Julio Hernández y su hijo Johnny caminan durante la marcha a Sacramento, 1966. Foto de John Kouns.
Julio Hernández and his son Johnny walk during the march to Sacramento, 1966
Unlike the March on Washington of the Civil Rights era which had a group converged on one place, the pilgrimage to Sacramento chose Mao’s model of a traveling march that organized people along the route. Thus, the march was planned to pass through as many small towns as possible. The march was led by a farmworker carrying a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, made by 22-year-old Alicia Jiménez from Sacramento. American and Mexican flags were also carried at the head of the procession. As the marchers walked single file along Highway 99 and on small roads, people used to come to cheer the workers on and offer food or drinks. Sometimes, music performers welcomed the marchers and a few of these local musicians joined the march to Sacramento. A farmworker advanced team devised strategies to mobilize local farmworker committees and groups to welcome the marchers, feed them, and organize a rally each evening and a mass the next morning. At each rally, Luis Valdez proclaimed the “Plan de Delano,” calling for the liberation of the farmworker. The plan was modeled after Emiliano Zapata’s Plan de Ayala. Teatro Campesino also performed during those rallies. The physical suffering of the long march enhanced the religious aspects. “Every step was a needle,” César Chávez recalled. He suffered from a swollen ankle, blisters, and fever for a day or two. Then, he continued the march hobbling a cane. “The penance part of it,” he said, “is the most important thing of the pilgrimage.”
All this proved useful when César Chávez tasked Julio with organizing Corcoran. Fina and Julio were founding members of the Farm Workers Association (FWA) in 1962, and later co-founders of the United Farmworkers (UFW). This soon led to a series of milestones for Hernández, who soon became known for his loyalty and dedication to the community. 

Kathy Lynch, Larry Itliong, César Chávez, Daniel de los Reyes, and Julio Hernández singing at Filipino Hall, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Hernández served on the executive board of the UFW, as president of the Farm Workers Credit Union, as vice-president of the UFW, and attended numerous marches and union activities throughout the United States, including organizing the grape boycott in Cleveland, Ohio, where he and his family slept in their car. Ultimately, Hernández retired from the movement—a consummate family man, it was Fina’s illness that forced him to leave, caring for her for seven years until her death.

Julio and Fina Hernández and the NFWA


Tom & Ethel Bradley Center
California State University, Northridge

18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330
Phone: (818) 677-1200 / Contact Us