The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery launched its latest exhibition, and it features civil and human rights icon Dolores Huerta.

The "One Life: Dolores Huerta" exhibition opened on July 3 in Washington, D.C., and it was led by Taína Caragol, the first curator for Latino art and history at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, who wanted to shine a spotlight on the contributions of Latinos in American history.

According to National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet when interviewed by Latin Post, the concept of the "One Life" exhibition has been ongoing for over a decade, but the series hadn't focused yet on a U.S. Latina. Sajet noted that one of the big focuses at the Smithsonian is to be "inclusive of all Americans who made an impact" in the U.S., and so Caragol immediately suggested Huerta.

Caragol and Sajet recognized Huerta's work, which includes being the co-founder of the United Farm Workers, and realized it would be one of the few times to showcase someone who is still living -- which would enable Smithsonian officials to personally speak with the honoree.

Sajet noted the exhibition is not only a "history show" but also a "biography show," with materials ranging from flags, letters, photographs, videos and the Presidential Medal of Freedom given to Huerta by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Sajet said one of the most important aspects of producing an exhibition is ensuring the materials are available. "Often, what happens is you might have a great idea about someone but you don't have enough excellent material to include that would be engaging to the public," Sajet said.

Caragol mentioned her trip to the United Farm Workers Archive at Wayne State University, which was home to a lot of collections such as union materials from across the U.S. She performed research while at Wayne State and was able to dig up a lot from the archives, despite the challenges involved.

"It's not that easy to get archives ... because these are primary sources, many of them," noted Caragol, adding that "One Life" exhibitions typically coincides with an anniversary for the person being showcased. The Huerta exhibit corresponds with the 50th Anniversary of the Delano grapes strike, which occurred in September 1965.

"I feel very honored [and] humbled," Huerta told Latin Post.

"It's quite humbling because while the exhibits my involvement -- it does show the work on the field, it shows farm workers marching in Sacramento, it shows Robert Kennedy, who came to be with the farm workers," Huerta added.

"At the same time, I think it's really awesome that they chose me because I know that there's thousands of farm workers who were in the struggle, who gave up their lives just to receive basic human rights."

Caragol said Huerta found the exhibition to be "very meaningful," especially as the first Latina to be featured in the "One Life" exhibit.

"It was so thorough [and] complete," Huerta said. "The pictures that they chose, it was just amazing that they were able to display through the photographs an entire history of the movement. I thought [the Smithsonian] did an incredible job in the fact they researched the history, they were very accurate and the pictures they chose to portray."

Huerta said she hopes the exhibit's attendees will learn about the farm workers' struggle, many of whom were poor and lacked an education, and many of whom continue to create change through nonviolent action.

"This is something that all of us can do," Huerta said. "We can all engage, we can all participate and form a democratic society."

Sarajet and Caragol stated the "One Life: Dolores Huerta" exhibition took approximately 18 months to prepare and will end May 15, 2016.


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