Once-Forgotten Citrus War Remembered with Labor Day Unveiling of Monument to Workers

This means citrus war!
This means citrus war!
Illustration by Bob Aul/OC Weekly

The thrust of the Mexican-in-Chief's 2006--and, if memory serves--award-winning--cover story "Gunkist Oranges" was that few had heard of the historic Citrus War on 1936 in Orange County. A Labor Day celebration and memorial unveiling in Costa Mesa aims to keep us and future generations from forgetting.

Gunkist Oranges: Wonder why Orange County trembles whenever its Mexicans protest? Welcome to the Citrus War of 1936, the most important event in Orange County history you've never heard of

The Orange County Labor Federation, the OC Fair & Event Center and the Orange County Employees Association present the free Labor Day celebration and unveiling of the "Table of Dignity" memorial from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at fairgrounds HQ, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.

"The public is invited to celebrate Labor Day and learn about Orange County's checkered agricultural history during a solemn ceremony," say organizers of the first-ever unveiling of the memorial the OC Fair & Event Center commissioned last year "to pay tribute to the working men and women who helped to make Orange County great and those who were beaten and jailed during a citrus strike over wages in 1936."

Envisioned by artists Joshua Sarantitis and Ricardo Mendoza (formerly of Costa Mesa), the "Table of Dignity" includes: a 14-ton boulder representing the strength of working men and women; a space where visitors can sit as equals and celebrate our agricultural bounty; two portals filled with rammed earth (a traditional way of building walls); exterior boxes containing living crops; and architecture harkening back to the look of an early California mission.

"The project reflects a new willingness to remember not only the titans of business and commerce, but the workers whose toil and sacrifice laid the foundation for future prosperity, said Nick Berardino, a former county union official and current member of the OC Fair & Event Center Board of Directors.

"The board came to an agreement that it was in everyone's best interest, the children, the history of the history of this county, to embrace singularly, the achievement of the great men and women who were farm workers."

The memorial is not tucked in a corner behind deep-fry booth but in a prominent location on the grounds expected to be "visited by thousands of residents, including 100,000 school children, each year," according to organizers.

It's unveiling will be marked by union workers marching under their banners, the Marching Saints of Santa Ana High School, Banda De Guerra (a Mexican military band) and the American Legion Color Guard. A hot dog lunch is included at the free event.

Enter through the main entrance on Fair Drive. For more information, contact the Orange County Labor Federation at 714.385.1534.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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