“In July of 1988, Cesar (Chavez) started a fast, and he call it the Fast for Life. And this was really around the issue of pesticides, because he had seen that even though we’d been talking about it and we knew there were cancer clusters and we knew children were dying at a very, very young age. They’re like 10,11 and 12. They had all these cancers, tumors and all of that. He (Cesar) says still nobody was paying any attention to it. He said, ‘It’s my issue, and I have got to make this the most important in my life.’ And so he fasted for 25 days.
That night when he broke the fast, Jesse Jackson said, ‘How many of you will continue this fast that Cesar started, so that we can we can take it to the different communities that we come from?’
We started talking about how we could promote this fast, not only the fast but also the knowledge that pesticides were killing us. Hightower was one of the one of the individuals that continued to fast…He did it for three days, and then he would hand it off to somebody else. And so we would at that time organize it and the next individual and the next and the next to the next. And so we continued that link and chain for a long time, and and in the process continuing to educate people about the chemicals that are used on the food that we eat. And so we thank Hightower for doing that because that was when he was Commissioner.”
Cesar Chavez tapped Rebecca to organize and then lead the Texas chapter of the United Farmworkers. In 1979, after a year of organizing committees across South Texas, they had committees in 25 colonias in Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, and Starr counties. Each colonia had its own leadership, its own responsibilities and duties. Over 1,000 delegates attended the first UFW convention that year.
Rebecca’s name is engraved in the concrete of downtown San Antonio, surrounded by stories of other local labor leaders in the city’s new Labor Plaza. The plaza is in the River Walk Public Art Garden on Market Street across from the Henry B. González Convention Center.