Soledad “Chole” Alatorre had an unlikely start in the labor movement. She was born in Mexico’s San Luis Potosí and moved to California in her 20s, where she took on a job as a bathing suit model for a factory that made garments for the famed swimsuit designer Rose Marie Reid. Alatorre used the position to get an insider’s view into the relationships between workers and industry manufacturers. She learned labor practices from her father and began teaching workers at the factory to organize and advocate for better pay. She eventually became a prominent figure working behind the scenes in the Chicano Civil Rights movement. After a lifetime dedicated to the community, she passed away last week at the age of 94. Her cause of death is unknown.
An obituary in the Los Angeles Times remembers her as a force who had a hand in multiple activist efforts. In addition to pushing for labor rights, she fought against forced sterilization of Mexican-American women in LA, organized protests against the KKK and even urged for more Latinx representation in media. She worked closely with civil rights activists Bert Corona, as well. A recent Washington Post piece notes that the two of them were “creative” organizers who believed undocumented workers were important allies who could help farmworkers—especially at a time when some Mexican-American unions saw them as threats who might break strikes and work for cheaper labor.
“She would always tell us there was no way to build the kind of power for workers to be treated fairly unless everyone was going to be included, especially undocumented immigrants,” California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo told the LA Times. Durazo calls Alatorre’s work an inspiration. “She did it from the point of view that it was not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do.”
Speaking to Hoy in 2017, Alatorre articulated the philosophy that drove her years of service: “Right now there are many leaders and activists across the nation. There are also many organizations that help the immigrant community,” she said. “However, in these times of uncertainty for this sector, either you fight united and with perseverance or you are crushed like an ant.”