McAllen to host national farmworker conference


McALLEN — In April, the city of McAllen will host the 31st annual MAFO National Farmworker Conference, the organization announced on Wednesday.

More than 400 people from across the country are expected to attend the four-day conference, including federal and state government employees, farmworker agencies and advocates and experts on health, housing, education and rural development.

MAFO is a national partnership of farmworker and rural organizations, supporting and propping up migrant farmworkers, as told by State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who was on hand at the Wednesday press conference announcing the conference and who was a migrant farmworker growing up.

“You name it, I’ve done it,” Hinojosa said, recalling “when I was picking cotton one day” under “the hot, hot sun, with long rows of cotton.”

Hinojosa has pushed legislation to help farmworker rights and to Hinojosa’s surprise, he will receive the lifetime achievement award in 2020 from MAFO. Officials from the organization from Minnesota and Wisconsin who were in town also notified Hinojosa of his award.

Heladio F. Zavala, CEO of MAFO, said Hinojosa, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and a bevy of others are expected to speak at the April conference, as well as civil rights activists, such as Monica Ramirez.

Ramirez, Zavala said, brought to light many issues women farm workers face, and her voice resonates strongly among migrant farm workers.

“She started the conversation about what happens to women in the field,” Zavala said.

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