“The movement must go beyond its leaders. It must be something that is continuous, with goals and ideals that the leadership then builds upon.”
-Philip Vera Cruz, 1994
Philip Vera Cruz was born on December 25, 1904. Known as “the philosopher,” Vera Cruz was a visionary, scholar, poet, writer, and activist that often expressed himself through his writing. Initially, Vera Cruz immigrated to the United States for an American education as a pensionado. Upon graduating high school in the United States, he wanted to continue his college education but because his family in the Philippines was experiencing economic hardship, he decided to work as a farm and cannery laborer so that he could send money to his family abroad.
Despite not being able to continue his education, Vera Cruz continued to use his passion for writing to document the Filipina/o/x American experience through its vivid description of the labor movement. One of his well-known essays, “The Sour Grapes of Agribusiness,” provided a historical backdrop of Delano and how its unique community lent itself to be the perfect location in which a successful multiethnic movement occured. His work not only provided historical context to the Filipina/o/x Labor Movement, His writing also argued on behalf of labor rights, freeing the Filipina/o/x worker from capitalism, and ultimately to secure Philippine sovereignty. Vera Cruz’s advocacy work went beyond his writing. He actively participated in labor strikes Vera Cruz, along with Itliong, participated in the 1948 asparagus strike with many others before also playing a major role in the Delano Grape Strike of 1965.
Vera Cruz remained an important figure to the UFW, acting as vice president of the union until 1973. When UFW President, Cesar Chavez, visited the Marcos administration in the Philippines, Vera Cruz chose a public stance against him while vocalising his support for liberation and freedom of all Filipino workers in and out of the diaspora. His passion for equity and social justice went beyond the fields as he also remained a human rights advocate for the rest of his life, especially in the face of Martial Law in the Philippines during the 1970s. After retiring from the UFW, Vera Cruz went on to lecture at college campuses across America, spreading his message about social justice issues and workers rights.
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