It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! Visit our web page for resources on related records and how we are commemorating the month. Today’s post comes from Adam Berenbak, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
A stone wall, tortillas, and a somber stare on the faces of those framed in the photo. It’s a wedding, a celebration in midst of poverty. The image was taken by photographer Philip Decker in Queretero, Mexico, during the mid-1980s and was part of an exhibition in the Capitol Rotunda titled “Liberty in the Fields?”
The exhibition was sponsored by Martin G. Martinez, a Representative from California and Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). The CHC was founded in 1976 to advocate for issues important to Hispanics through the congressional legislative process.
According to Decker, “the image from Mexico is from a small hamlet in the mountains of the state of Queretero, where the farmworkers I lived with and photographed originate from. The photo is of a young couple at their wedding meal. I included this image to illustrate local customs as well as to underscore the poverty that our undocumented farmworkers are fleeing . . . the wedding meal is chicken soup and tortillas.”
Philip Decker had worked as a freelance photographer documenting farm workers in Arizona who had crossed the border from their homes in rural Mexico. Through the exhibition, he sought to give a voice in Congress to the undocumented migrant laborers working in fields across Arizona and elsewhere.
Rep. Martinez served in the House from 1982 to 2000, sponsoring the National Community Service Act and supporting the 1994 assault weapons ban. A Democrat, Martinez gradually aligned with Republicans, opposing the Brady Bill and vowing to run for office as a Republican. He died in 2011 in Fredericksburg, VA.
The photograph is found in the records of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in Record Group 233 in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
To learn more about Hispanic American’s in Congress visit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus website and the House Office of the Historian’s Hispanic Americans in Congress webpage. To see more of Decker’s photograph’s, visit his website.