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Happy Birthday, César Chávez!

“Sculpture located in César Chávez Plaza in downtown Sacramento, California’s capital city on the site of the old city plaza” by Carol M. Highsmith, //www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013633592/

“Sculpture located in César Chávez Plaza in downtown Sacramento, California’s capital city on the site of the old city plaza” by Carol M. Highsmith, //www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013633592/

Sí se puede.—César Chávez
First President of the
United Farm Workers
Organizing Committee (UFWOC)

Born March 31, 1927, César Estrada Chávez is perhaps the most renowned Latino civil rights activist. Two years ago, perhaps with the aim of seeing “one of America’s greatest champions for social justice” get his rightful place among his peers, President Obama proclaimed “March 31, 2014, as Cesar Chavez Day.”  The president issued the third iteration of the César Chávez Day, Presidential Proclamation, March 30, 2016.

The Presidential Proclamation serves as a brief overview of the achievements of this leader of Latino civil rights. Within it, the president reminds us that migrant farm workers “were exposed to dangerous pesticides and denied the most basic protections, including minimum wages, health care, and access to drinking water.”

Also this month, on March 17, 1966, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the event best known as the March to Sacramento.  Thanks to Roberto Bustos (“El Capitán”), who marched along with César Chavez, we are reminded of that “twenty-five-day, three-hundred mile pilgrimage from California’s San Joaquin Valley” to Sacramento, California (Steven Harmon Wilson, p. 143).

For those of you who enjoy documentaries, there is a documentary titled The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle, which according to Jack Hailey, “traces the history of the United Farmworkers Union and the life of its founder” (Jack Hailey, IMDb).

5 Comments

  1. Janice Hyde
    March 31, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    I had the pleasure of meeting César Chavez in 1986 at a college where I was teaching and where he screened his film, “The Wrath of Grapes.” He asked those of us in the audience to boycott the purchase and consumption of California grapes until there were improved conditions for farm workers. I still think twice before eating grapes…

  2. Angela Kinney
    March 31, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    This is a well deserved tribute to one of the most well respected activists of the 20th century. Everyone should see this documentary to understand the struggles of the farm workers that continue even today.

  3. Deedar Daudpota
    April 1, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Great man lives in the hearts forever!

  4. Amparo Rueda
    April 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    While working in the Preservation Directorate, LOC, I had the honor of being invited to do a conservation survey of Cesar Chavez office and personal documents in California. It was a most amazing experience to be there, I felt I was in a sanctuary. However, I did it in my own time… The powers that be at LOC did not think it was an important or worthwhile activity for an LOC employee… Very sad.

  5. JC
    June 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you for publishing such an amazing story on one of America’s most under appreciated/known civil rights leaders.

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