Ramon Del Castillo, PhD
The César E. Chávez 19th Annual march in Denver, Colorado has been cancelled. The César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver members stand in solidarity with community leaders to work towards restoring holistic health to the many communities affected by COVID-19. I was drawn to the writings of nonviolence and spirituality as I pondered what message I would share with the community during this perilous time in our world, relating it to faith in humanity.
This year’s theme, “Our March is Our Medicine,” was a metaphor for the importance of acting upon an unjust society that has many Americans captivated in dungeons of hopelessness and despair. Medicine can take many forms and can penetrate many parts of our social, psychological and spiritual beings. Committee members are aware that when human beings work on creating their own manifest destiny with an intense desire, full of faith and hope, things will change. They further adhere to the principle that only through action and activism can we get the attention of the power brokers. In selecting this theme, we wanted to share with the community that we have our own medicine to heal the many transgressions that we face on a daily basis.
This year’s theme, “Our March is Our Medicine,” was a metaphor for the importance of acting upon an unjust society that has many Americans captivated in dungeons of hopelessness and despair.
The march, in general, has been anchored in César Chávez’ utilization of pilgrimages that is, long marches and fasts that would enlighten the consciousness of the oppressor whose modus operandi was based on using its power and weapons in violent displays of anger and rage. In César Chávez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence,” José Antonio Orosco states, “The farmworker march [pilgrimage] from Delano to Sacramento was modeled on the Freedom march from Selma to Montgomery in 1959 that put pressure on the federal government to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965…This march was the first major attempt to fashion the Mexican cultural practices of pilgrimage, penitential procession, and revolutionary action into such a framework to guide the future activism of the farmworker movement during its journey to create a culture of peace.”
When Chávez invited Luis Valdez, founder of Teatro Campesino to write El Plan de Delano, patterned after the Plan de Ayala, which was written during the Mexican Revolution to reclaim land and dignity from the oppressive Mexican regime—a time when peasants were attempting to abolish the indentured servitude they had suffered since the 15th century, he was putting together a blueprint for the creation of a civil society, where farmworker contributions, that is, their hard labor to feed America’s families, would be honored. Chávez desired to end an unjust system that subjected farmworkers to starvation wages. This occurred during the Chicana/o Movement—during a time when differences in their many manifestations could come together and work towards social justice for farmworkers.
One of the tools that accentuated Chávez’ philosophy was nonviolence. Nonviolence was an antidote to violence that is rooted in hate for others, when unmasked only destroys the individual that has sunk into depersonalizing others out of fear. Chávez was keenly aware that hate in its many practices would destroy those who used it against others. It takes courage to be nonviolent in the face of violent aggression. However, it also teaches the oppressor that love will always overcome hate.
Orosco further states, “Nonviolent direct action gives activists the opportunity to develop skills and abilities needed for self-determination and democratic action.” He believed that this would lead to the building of a Culture of Peace, wherein human beings could cultivate the many talents they possessed into dialogue regarding a civil society without engaging in violence.
As Orosco further interprets the Chávez’ philosophy and with respect to why we march, he states, “a trip made with sacrifice and hardship as an expression of penance and commitment—and often involving a petition to the patron of the pilgrimage for some sincerely sought benefit of body or soul.” This was historically rooted in Mexican culture as Mexicans continue to flock to La Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe located in México City, many times on hands and knees, seeking intercession and compassion from the spiritual powers above. For 18 years in Denver, La Virgen and Tonantzin have been at the front of the march patterned after Mexican Independence in 1519 and the Mexican Revolution of 1917.
Additionally, Indigenous Danzantes have accompanied marchers, as they pray to the four directions, summoning nuestras antepasados, asking for spiritual protection and the safety of marchers as they trek into neighborhoods that have recently been gentrified. The message is loud and clear, “aqui estamos y no nos vamos.” For the last several years, Tennyson Avenue from 46th Avenue to 38th avenue has been transformed into tierra indigena—during times when our new neighbors are sitting in cafes sipping hot coffee and munching on a bagel—on borrowed land. People whose history has been enslavement must choose noncooperation as a method to freedom. To choose cooperation with those who own the lock and keys that have kept us chained up for centuries will only further enslave you. “Our March is Our Medicine,” has many meanings.
Next year will be our 20th year that we celebrate the live and death of César Estrada Chávez and Dolores Huerta.
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 3-17-2020 Ramón Del Castillo.
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