An exciting exhibit showing how one person can make a difference in a protest against those in control of an organization is now on display at the Tejano Civil Rights Museum at 1517 Chapparral St., Corpus Christi.
It isrlocated in the Grande-Grossman House in the Heritage Park Area of Corpus Christi.
“Francisco Esparza’s Revolución – The Brownsville Eagle Bus Strike of 1980” opened Jan. 28, 2016.
It will be is on display through May at the museum and includes more than 50 caricatures depicting workers involved in the simple act of civil disobedience as they tried to change the course of a company’s action against the workers and their union.
“This is an important view of how one person through simple caricatures can strike at the heart of an incident and how art sometimes plays a curious and strange role documenting events of historical significance,” Dr. Nick Adame, executive director of the Tejano Civil Rights Museum, said. “The caricatures are lively, full of action, satire and hope. Each one speaks for itself and one has to remember these are actual people and their actions that are depicted in these simple drawings, and yet those actions are still speaking to us today.”
The exhibit features the artwork of Mexican immigrant, Francisco Esparza. His art reflects the plight of Mexican and Mexican American workers at the Eagle Bus Company. His art is featured as part of a Journal of Latinos Studies article written by his daughter, Dr. Edith Esparza-Young and historian, Dr. Shannon Baker.
The Eagle Bus Strike of 1980 was won by the workers as a direct result of Francisco Esparza’s satirical comments on conditions for workers.
Esparza and his daughter were honored at the reception at the Tejano Civil Rights Museum and Resource Center back in Jan. 29.
Eagle Manufacturing International was a bus factory in Brownsville.
In 1980 workers went on strike with the support of the United Auto Workers Union. They sought better wages and better working conditions. The company attempted to thwart the protest and labor stoppage with strike breakers from both Texas and Mexico.
But, with worker halted, the company reached a compromise and improved benefits, gave significant raises and expanded the role of the union in production decisions, Adame said.
“Turns out that Esparza’s caricatures – art work – were the best documentation for the strike and its success,” Adame said.
Esparza would draw his caricatures during his breaks or lunch hours. The finished product would eventually make its way to the workers, who would pass them around, make copies of them or post them around the gates or just around the company.
“His style is reminiscent of Mexican political cartoonists (Jose Guadalupe) Posada,” Adame said, “whose work was filled with satire and social and political messages. Posada used ‘calaveras’ – skulls – to send his message. Esparza uses real people.”
Esparza’s art embraces a distinct style of satire, directly attacking those in charge and casting fun at the reality of the situation to the workers.
His work was so influential during the strike that the union members vote to make him their spokesperson and local representative, Adame said.
Adame said this was one of the most interesting exhibits at the museum.
“What you will see is the actual art work,” he said. “Mr. Esparza would use any piece of paper he could find – a napkin, the back of a company memo, a leftover notpad, or a paper on the building’s floor or just flying around the building – to do his work.”
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