• April 22nd, 2024
  • Monday, 09:57:05 AM

The Vision and Honor of César Chávez Continues


César Estrada Chávez dedicated his life to ensuring basic human rights to farmworkers across our country. César Chávez (center) on march from Mexican border to Sacramento with United Farm Workers members in Redondo Beach, California, July 9, 1975. Photo: John Malmin, Los Angeles Times/UCLA Library/Creative Commons 4.0

 

“Many of us were afraid and many of us didn’t know what to do, but we were just waiting,” said Eliseo Medina, national labor union leader and immigrant rights advocate in an interview in the monumental documentary Chicano!, directed by Hector Galán. “We were just waiting for somebody to throw the match and that’s what César did.”

 

Memories of César Chávez, a humble man still remain in our hearts. A man who dared to not only speak his mind, but to act on it. March 31st, marks what would have been César Chávez’ ninety-sixth birthday. The Weekly Issue/El Semanario dedicates this issue to a man who generated a national and international movement for dignity and human rights of farmworkers.

 

Dolores Huerta, 93, is a celebrated Latina labor leader, activist and community organizer and co-founded the United Farm Workers UFW with César Chávez. Photo: USDOL

 

Chávez’ stature and soft-spoken, quiet demeanor was often mistaken for the stereotypical look of passivity rather than forceful leadership. Medina, a devoted supporter of the United Farm Workers (UFW), recalled the first big strike meeting in Delano, California on September 16, 1965. “People started talking about how unfair what the growers were doing and why we needed to fight back, and then this guy starts talking. I said, ‘Oh that must be César.’ And he was tall with a mustache, very distinguished looking. I was very impressed,” remembered Medina, who at the time was 19 years old. “And then he says ‘Now I would like to introduce you to César Chávez. And then, so César gets up and he’s very soft spoken. I say, ‘That’s César?’ You know, I wasn’t very impressed…but the more he talked, the more I thought that not only could we fight, but we could win.” And they did.

 

Chávez instilled that courage and vision across the nation, and in 2002 committed individuals created the first official Denver celebration honoring César Chávez. In 2001, former Colorado State Rep.’s Frana Mace and Rob Hernández sponsored a bill to create a state holiday, and former Denver District 3 City Councilwoman Ramona Martínez initiated a City holiday recognizing Chávez and his accomplishments in the fields. The city of Denver officially honors the late leader closing its municipal offices and facilities on or near Chávez’ birthday.

 

The César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver will host their 22nd Annual César Chávez March and celebration on April, 1st beginning with an 8:30 am mass at Regis University Chapel, 3333 Regis Blvd, and the Marcha begins at 10am to César Chávez Park, 4131 Tennyson, for a community celebration.

 

In Albuquerque, New México the Recuerda a César Chávez Committee  (RCCC) organized their 30th annual Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta community event last Saturday that commenced with a family fiesta at the National Hispanic Cultural Center that featured a keynote speech by Dolores Huerta, president and Founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF). Dolores will be 93 on April 10. She is a celebrated Latina labor leader, activist and community organizer. She has worked for civil rights and social justice for over 50 years. In 1962, she and César Chávez founded the United Farm Workers union. She served as vice-president and played a critical role in many of the union’s accomplishments for four decades. The RCCC is also hosting the 14th Annual Dolores Huerta Day of Service & Learning on March 30, at Sánchez Farm Open Space. Students will gain new skills, a better understanding of sustainable agriculture, and learn about the legacy of César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, and the farm workers’ movement.

 

Efforts for a national holiday were originally established by Los Angeles, volunteers who organized and led the effort in California that won César Chávez Day, the first legal state holiday and day of service and learning in honor of farm worker leader César E. Chávez in 2000. The California legal holiday set into motion a wave of initiatives resulting in optional and commemorative Cesar Chavez Days across the country.

 

For decades, Chávez, Huerta and the United Farm Workers (UFW) fought various difficult battles against many growers and even the Teamsters. Striking across the country was an everyday occurrence, which parallels current struggles now in fields from California to Florida.

 

Since the death of Chávez in 1993, the need continues more than ever for the plight of farmworkers across our nation. Chávez always said, “The fight is never about the grapes or lettuce…it’s about the people.”

 

Read more about the history of César Chávez here.

 

 

Cristina Frésquez is a contributing writer for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.