After 35 years of service to the Union and its members, Community Organizer Doña Maria Gomez is retiring this month. While she will continue supporting the cause as a volunteer, her retirement closes an important chapter in her life and for the Union.
Maria was born in Pharr, Texas, but moved to Mexico when she was 5 years old. At age 15, when Maria lived in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, she began crossing the border regularly to work in the fields for a wage of $4.50 a day. It was then that Maria first experienced the injustices of being a farm worker. While helping to put fruits and vegetables on the tables of the wealthy, she suffered inhumane working conditions.
Maria worked in the fields and attended night school in the evenings to learn English for several years until one day the United Farm Workers arrived and called on all workers to strike in support of higher wages and improved working conditions. Although she feared not having enough money to feed her children, Maria and her family joined the cause. Through her involvement, Maria learned that people are more powerful united than alone and that serving others is an invaluable privilege. Since then, she’s been a faithful supporter of the farm worker movement, both as a volunteer and staff organizer with the UFW and LUPE.
“Lo unico que nos pertenemos es nuestra vida.” The only thing that belongs to us is our life, Maria says about her commitment to serving others. Cesar Chavez taught her that a life of service to others is a life fully lived.
We can’t help but think of Doña Mari when we hear Cesar’s words: “Those who are willing to sacrifice and be of service to others have very little difficulty with people. They know what they are all about. People can’t help but want to be near them. They help them; they work with them. That’s what love is all about. It starts with your heart and radiates out.”
She says that she is moving to another stage in her life, where she will learn English and computers. Still, Cesar’s words describe Doña Mari perfectly, who will continue to dedicate her life to the service of others.
She is retiring, but will continue to be involved in the Union. She says, “This for me wasn’t just a job. It’s my life.”