September 15 marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to recognize the valuable contributions of Latine communities in shaping U.S. culture and history.
At NDWA, we’re spending the month uplifting Latina domestic worker ancestors who used their skill and passion to change not only the nature of domestic work, but to change the world.
Women like Carmelita Torres, who is best known for starting the 1917 Bath riots on the Mexico–United States border when she was just 17 years old and working as a maid in the United States.
By the 1910s, almost all of the paid domestic workers in El Paso, Texas, were Mexican, either from El Paso or Ciudad Juárez. A law required all domestic workers crossing into the U.S. to undergo a bathhouse inspection to ensure “cleanliness”.
In response to this unjust law, Carmelita, along with a group of courageous domestic workers, mobilized to protest the humiliating inspections. Press accounts from that time estimate that they were joined by several thousand demonstrators on that first day. The protest lasted for three days.
Carmelita’s story remains with us today as evidence of the strength and power of domestic workers and is a key piece of the foundation upon which our movement stands.
We’ve come a long way from the Bath riots but still have a long way to go. Today, domestic workers continue fighting against unjust policies and cruel exclusions from labor laws that put them at risk for wage theft, sexual exploitation and more.
That’s why we are focused on our advocacy and organizing efforts to pass the National Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. We are carrying forward the work of women who came before us, women like Carmelita, so that we can ensure those who come after us know true equity.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, join us as we take the time to learn more about the invaluable role that Latina domestic workers play in our lives and communities. By recognizing their contributions and committing to doing all that we can to advocate for their rights, we can work towards a more inclusive and just society for all.
Thanks for all that you do,
Rosa Lozano, Director of Local Organizing Programs
National Domestic Workers Alliance