Josefina Fierro de Bright
Josefina Fierro (1914 in Mexicali, Baja California – March 1998), later Josefina Fierro de Bright, was a Mexican American leader who helped organize resistance against discrimination in the American Southwest during the Great Depression. She was the daughter of immigrants who had fled revolution in Mexico to settle in California. She grew up in Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley.
Her mother emphasized the importance of education and urged Josefina to "Rely on yourself, be independent." In 1938 when Fierro was 18 years old, she entered the University of California, Los Angeles. She planned to study medicine, but activism on behalf of the Mexican American community took up most of her time and effort. Fierro de Bright gave up her studies at UCLA to become an organizer, and her style was described by veteran longshoremen's leader Bert Corona as "gutsy, flamboyant, and tough".
Aided by her husband John Bright, a Hollywood screenwriter and an activist himself, she began to lead boycotts of companies that did business in Mexican American communities but did not hire Mexican American workers. These activities brought her attention from a Mexican American group El Congreso de Pueblos de Habla Española (Spanish-speaking congress), which was formed in 1938. El Congreso was organizing Hispanic migrants to stand up for their rights. In 1939 El Congreso leaders asked Fierro de Bright to help them to establish a branch in Los Angeles which represented a major effort by the Mexican American generation of the time, to form a working class movement that was aimed at securing basic rights for all Mexican and Spanish speaking people in the United States.
Josefina Fierro had been involved in revolutionary activism from a young age. Her father had been an officer in “Pancho” Villa's revolutionary army, but it was her mother's passion for activism and commitment to helping others that most strongly influenced her life. Fierro had been raised by her mother, who had immigrated to the United States when Josefina was a baby. Because Josefina's mother's family were followers of the radical Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón, she had been taught to speak against injustice, to fight for what was right and to treat everyone with “dignity and respect”.
Personal Life and Activism
After high school graduation, Josefina Fierro decided to move to Los Angeles to live with an aunt; there she met and fell in love with Hollywood actor John Bright. Bright, who was blacklisted with several other actors in Hollywood due to allegations of having ties with the Communist Party, inspired Fierro's activism further. After marrying Bright, Josefina found herself in the midst of a campaign that defended Mexican immigrants and Mexican American rights against discrimination during the 1930s.
In 1938, at the age of eighteen, Fierro de Bright, who would become executive secretary, collaborated with Luisa Moreno and founded El Congreso de Pueblos de Habla Española, a Mexican civil rights organization that worked to fight for civil rights of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans and worker rights as well Fierro de Bright took her and her husband's platform to Hollywood and used it to fund-raise revenue for El Congreso. The networking that she made in Hollywood, brought in actors and other celebrities to help raise the revenue for the organization. Fierro de Bright, with Luisa Moreno, actively worked on issues that targeted the needs of lower-income and non-bilingual Mexicans to help them receive basic civil rights in the United States. Although El Congreso did not last very long, Fierro de Bright's activism did not end with its dissolution. In 1942, during the “Sleepy Lagoon” trial, after receiving complaints of cruel punishment from parents of the boys held in custody, Fierro de Bright organized a committee for the defendants. The committee became known as the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, and raised money so that those on trial could hire a lawyer to represent and defend them.
- Mario T. García (2004) "FIERRO, Josefina" in Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century (pg. 205-206) Susan Ware, Stacy Lorraine Braukman, editors. ISBN 0-674-01488-X
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