From young children clinging on to their parents’ arms to elders who once stood in solidarity with farm workers during the Delano Grape Strike, a multitude of guests began trickling into the Historic Cowell Hay Barn on Oct. 20 at 5 p.m. People of all ages walked in displaying a wide-eyed wonder.

As the aroma of empanadas wafted around the room, hunger and excitement proliferated within the guests in attendance. Dolores Huerta, labor activist, one of the leaders of La Huelga, and the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which was the predecessor to United Farm Workers, was sitting front and center of the venue.

With a myriad of performances and notable speakers including keynote Cristina Jimenéz, who helped pass DACA and co-founded United We Dream, the celebration of the renaming of the Research Center of the Americas to the Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas (HRCA) brought the party to a quiet UC Santa Cruz Thursday evening.

As guests began to settle in, the guitarron and other instruments of the Mariachi Eterno, UCSC’s resident mariachi band, commenced the celebration. Big names were in attendance, including playwright and director Luis Valdez, State Senator John Laird, Santa Cruz Mayor Sonja Brunner, and the guest of honor Huerta herself.

The ceremony kicked off with Rebecca Hernandez, UCSC’s first community archivist, reading the land acknowledgement, connecting it to the experiences of Indigenous and Latine communities. This was met with nods of approval from the audience.

With the crowd energized, the celebration continued on as a host of well-known supporters took to the stage including Angela Davis, who sent in a video message to speak on Huerta’s profound impact. Keynote speaker Jimenéz continued the sentiment on speaking about the issues that plague Indigenous and Latine communities today, and the importance of grassroots organizing. Viewers had their hands on their heart, nods on their head, and smiles on their face throughout the message.

Camila Chavez, Huerta’s daughter and current director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, remarked on the event and the jovial atmosphere. Chavez emphasized the importance of her mother’s work in community empowerment and giving a voice to upcoming leaders. She also recognized the splintered society we live in today. With the recent hate crime in September against a Mexican student through the burning of her Mexican flag, Chavez had a message for the community of hurting students.

“We need to be intentional about demonstrating and strengthening solidarity across movements and culture to show that we are united against racial hatred.”

Students from Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas de UCSC danced the stage away after the keynote. Audience members themselves got up and moved to the beat of the moment. All this collected into the impact and importance of not just the renaming, but also of the HRCA’s work over the past 30 years.

The HRCA, which was established in 1992, aimed to bring the fields of Latine/Chicanx and Latin American studies into the university’s landscape.

The 30th anniversary celebration, sans the renaming itself, has been in the works for almost two years. Sylvanna Falcón, director of the HRCA and associate professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, along with a faculty steering committee, began the planning. Falcón, motivated by the renaming of College Ten to John R. Lewis College, began to ponder what a fitting name would be for the Research Center.

Dolores Huerta and her decades of activism leapt to mind.

With the idea locked and ready, and Huerta’s approval in December 2021, the renaming process mounted. Ten months of a labor of love led to Huerta taking the stage.

Electricity bubbled through the crowd during her speech. With Huerta at the pulpit, she circled back to the rallying cry that empowered La Huelga, the struggle that rang the bell of collective solidarity that still echoes strong half a century later.

“Who’s got the power?” Huerta urged the audience.

“We’ve got the power!” the audience rejoiced.

“What kind of power?” asked Huerta. “People power!” exclaimed the audience.

Everyone chants “Si se puede!”