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Alfredo R. Vazquez, 1917-2015: United Farm Workers pioneer later worked at cement firm, ran a co-op

Alfredo Vazquez, right, sharing bread with folk singer Joan Baez and Cesar Chavez during a Mass marking the end of Chavez’s 24-day fast in Phoenix in 1972
Alfredo Vazquez, right, sharing bread with folk singer Joan Baez and Cesar Chavez during a Mass marking the end of Chavez’s 24-day fast in Phoenix in 1972 Provided photo

Civil rights activist and United Farm Workers pioneer Alfredo R. Vazquez, who endured threats and abuse during farm labor marches, strikes and boycotts in midlife and spent much of his later years working various jobs in the central San Joaquin Valley, died Dec. 31. He was 98.

Born on May 30, 1917, in El Paso, Texas, Vazquez worked as a migrant farmworker and also labored on cattle ranches, where he broke and trained horses. Vazquez married Cruz DeAnda, who also was from El Paso. After the family moved to east Los Angeles, they regularly traveled to the Central Valley to follow the crops. The family then moved into a rural home west of Visalia in the early 1950s.

After the UFW was created, co-founder Cesar Chavez and other leaders needed to recruit local farmworkers and met at the Vazquez home in 1963. By 1964, Vazquez had organized Tulare County farmworkers into a union. So he could provide intelligence to the UFW, Vazquez took jobs at different companies and became a driver for a grower.

After the Delano grape strike started in September 1965, Vazquez often worked undercover collecting information inside vineyards targeted by strikes. Vazquez occasionally also accompanied Chavez across California and Arizona as part of his security team.

After 15 years of working full time for the UFW, Vazquez took a job at a Tulare County cement firm and later managed a farmworker community co-op store in Fresno County. He later worked at a Los Angeles County senior citizens center, driving the elderly to appointments and making twice-daily food deliveries.

In his later years, Vazquez bought a house in Farmersville, where he spent time growing food in his garden.

Bridget Webster: 559-441-6304, @bridgetw05

Alfredo R. Vasquez

Born: May 30, 1917

Died: Dec. 31, 2015

Occupation: Civil rights activist, United Farm Workers organizer

Survivors: Children Fernando D. Vazquez, Joe A. Vazquez, Miguel Gabriel Vazquez, Bernadette D. Vazquez, Marty Vazquez Akin, Gerardo R. Vazquez and Lucia Vazquez; 20 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren. A daughter, Carmen Vazquez Canales, and a son, Carlos M. Vazquez, preceded him in death.

Services: A rosary is set for 6 p.m. Sunday at Salser & Dillard Funeral Chapel, 127 E. Caldwell Ave., Visalia,. A burial Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Holy Family Catholic Church, 1908 N. Court St., Visalia.

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