The media at the time called it the “funeral of the century,” amazed at the miles-long procession of coal miners and average people who lined the streets of Trinidad, Colorado to pay tribute to an American hero — a Greek American hero — who had been killed a week earlier.
Louis Tikas, born Anastasios Spantidakis on the island of Crete, was assassinated with a shot in the back by a member of the United States militia during a black event in American history known as the Ludlow Massacre.
His funeral on April 27, 1914 was a spectacle to the eye as thousands of miners left their jobs that day — many defying bosses’ orders — to pay tribute to the man who tried bring peace between the ruthless company bosses who owned the coal mines and the destitute immigrants who were seeking basic labor rights — including a shorter work day and laws protecting young children who were forced to work.
One local newspaper said the funeral procession that accompanied Tikas to his final resting place was “miles and miles long.”
The story of Louis Tikas has been documented in an award-winning documentary called “Palikari: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre.”
Numerous books have been written on the topic, including Zesse Papanikolas’ “Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre” and Scott Martelle’s “Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West.”
American folk music legend Woodie Guthrie wrote and sang a song about the Ludlow Massacre with touching lyrics and a historical account in and of itself.
Words, music by Woody Guthrie
It was early springtime when the strike was on,
They drove us miners out of doors,
Out from the houses that the Company owned,
We moved into tents up at old Ludlow.
I was worried bad about my children,
Soldiers guarding the railroad bridge,
Every once in a while a bullet would fly,
Kick up gravel under my feet.
We were so afraid you would kill our children,
We dug us a cave that was seven foot deep,
Carried our young ones and pregnant women
Down inside the cave to sleep.
That very night your soldiers waited,
Until all us miners were asleep,
You snuck around our little tent town,
Soaked our tents with your kerosene.
You struck a match and in the blaze that started,
You pulled the triggers of your gatling guns,
I made a run for the children but the fire wall stopped me.
Thirteen children died from your guns.
I carried my blanket to a wire fence corner,
Watched the fire till the blaze died down,
I helped some people drag their belongings,
While your bullets killed us all around.
I never will forget the look on the faces
Of the men and women that awful day,
When we stood around to preach their funerals,
And lay the corpses of the dead away.
We told the Colorado Governor to call the President,
Tell him to call off his National Guard,
But the National Guard belonged to the Governor,
So he didn’t try so very hard.
Our women from Trinidad they hauled some potatoes,
Up to Walsenburg in a little cart,
They sold their potatoes and brought some guns back,
And they put a gun in every hand.
The state soldiers jumped us in a wire fence corners,
They did not know we had these guns,
And the Red-neck Miners mowed down these troopers,
You should have seen those poor boys run.
We took some cement and walled that cave up,
Where you killed these thirteen children inside,
I said, “God bless the Mine Workers’ Union,”
And then I hung my head and cried.
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