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Lucy and Henry Vargas papers

Identifier: IWA0886

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Scope and Contents

The Lucy and Henry Vargas papers date from 1930 to 2013 and measure 2.5 linear inches. The collection is divided into two series: Biographical and Latino activism.

The Biographical series includes photographs of Henry Vargas, his family and an article about his volunteer work under the title, "Everyday Heroes." Also included are photographs of Alice Vargas, Henry's younger sister.

The Latino activism series includes newspaper clippings relating to LULAC Council 10's support of the grape boycott campaign and a photograph of Henry Vargas with Cesar Chavez, taken in 1992 when Cesar Chavez received the Pacem in Terris award of the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council and correspondence relating to the formation of Council 10. Also included are documents relating to Council 10's advocacy for workers' rights in the Quad Cities.


  • Creation: 1930-2013


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

The youngest of six children, Lucy Juarez was born in Pemberton, Minnesota, in 1930. Her parents, Sara and José Juarez, emigrated to the United States during the Mexican Revolution; José Juarez had served as a treasurer in Pancho Villa's army and Sara Juarez was a member of Villa's extended family. Shortly after Lucy Juarez's birth, the family moved to Davenport, Iowa, where they settled in a Mexican barrio known as Cook's Point. She attended St. Alphonsus Elementary School and continued her education until she was sixteen when her father thought she should stay home to help manage the household.

In 1949, Lucy Juarez eloped with Henry Vargas, the brother of her best friend. In the 1960s, they moved to west Davenport, where they were the only Mexican-American family in the neighborhood, and their children, the only non-white students at the local school. The prejudice the family faced inspired Lucy Vargas' political activism, which included participating efforts to improve conditions for Mexican American agricultural laborers in California as well as within Iowa. She regularly organized fundraisers for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and worked on her daughter Rita Vargas's successful campaign for Scott County recorder. An advocate for education, Lucy Vargas volunteered as a teacher's aide and special education assistant in Davenport schools. Lucy Vargas died in 2013.

Henry Vargas was born in Cook's Point, Davenport, Iowa, in 1929, to Mexican parents. His childhood was marked by tragedy-- one brother was fatally struck by a bus while sledding and, on New Year's Eve 1941, his father was killed by a drunk driver in a hit and run accident. Following the death of his father and the enlistment of his older brothers in the U.S. Army, Vargas dropped out of school in order to help support his family. He worked at the Rock Island Arsenal, the Milwaukee Railroad, and Oscar Mayer before securing employment at the John Deere Plow Works in Moline, Illinois, where he would work for forty years.

In 1959, Henry Vargas and other local Mexican Americans, on the advice of Jesse Mosquada, decided to form a local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens to combat the ongoing discrimination faced by Mexican Americans in the Quad Cities. LULAC Council 10 received its charter on February 16, 1959, and elected Henry Vargas its first president. In 1962, Vargas represented the council on Davenport's first Human Relations Commission in 1962 and served on the Executive Committee of the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council, working to secure fair housing legislation in Iowa at the state and local level and advocating for the employment rights of Latina women.

A staunch supporter of the national boycott of California table grapes, Vargas regularly picketed outside local supermarkets with his nine-year-old daughter Rita Vargas. In 1967, he supported the passage of Iowa's first migrant child labor law and called for a boycott of Heinz Company products in Iowa, known locally as the "tomato boycott," to support the rights of migrant workers employed seasonally on Iowa farms. Henry Vargas passed away in 2021.


2.50 linear inches

Photographs in Biographical series and 'LULAC' folder. boxes

Language of Materials



Mexican American activists from Davenport, Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1064) were donated by Henry Vargas in 2014.

Christina Jensen, 2014
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)