By LeRoy Chatfield
Cesar Chavez was a man with many visions – his credit union, newspaper, death benefit program, service centers, co-op gas station, medical clinics, legal department, statewide communication network, and retreat center come readily to mind, but there were many others. One of the most interesting was his desire to create a Taller Grafico – a print/graphics workshop whereby the farmworker movement could print in-house its own newspaper, magazines, educational brochures, political flyers, and stationery. He also envisioned this graphic workshop would create and produce posters, flags, picket signs, buttons and all the other kinds of paraphernalia his farmworker movement would need.
Cesar recruited Frank and Elizabeth Rodriguez along with Ruben Montoya - all active boycott supporters in the San Jose area – to develop the Taller Grafico. Frank and Elizabeth would handle the marketing side of the operation, and Ruben, the printing. Ruben quit his job and along with his wife Daneen, and their two sons, he moved to La Paz – the second family to reside there. When he left La Paz four years later, more than 100 farmworker movement volunteers lived at La Paz.
Ruben also took photographs. Beginning in the late 60’s when he first became an active UFW supporter in San Jose, he took hundreds of UFW-related photos: San Jose activists and supporters, food caravans to Delano, meetings at the Filipino Hall, the march from Indio to Calexico, San Jose boycott picket lines, La Raza conventions, political rallies and more.
The director of labor archives at Wayne State University in Detroit prevailed upon Ruben to give his negatives to the archive. Reluctantly, he did so. Many years later, he asked the archive to return his negatives but was told he would have to come in person to Detroit to reclaim them.
In 2006, I contacted the archivist at Wayne State and asked to borrow Ruben Montoya’s negatives to publish them on the Website. Bad news to report: the negatives could not be located, apparently they had been lost. At my urging, a complete search of the archives was undertaken, and there is good news to report: the archivist found the negatives (they had been misfiled) and with multiple sighs of relief, the archives sent Ruben’s negatives to the Documentation Project.
All is well that ends well: Ruben’s historical photos have now been published on the Website, the negatives and digital copies have been returned to him – and you, dear viewer, are the beneficiary.