By Lupita Peimbert.
(Culture) While thousands of farm workers in California and elsewhere continue a seemingly never ending struggle to achieve better working conditions, their visibility as a group has increased. The public has an awareness of what farm workers bring to the table, and why it is extremely important to protect their rights as workers and human beings.
That awareness was initiated and greatly pushed by Cesar Chavez, a champion who transformed his own difficult experiences as migrant farm worker into a movement that created a labor union, empowered the “campesinos,” and galvanized the support of regular people and well-known leaders.
“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) dedicated his life to changing the standards that treated farm workers as nothing, and to creating laws and systems that give people back the dignity they already have but was obscured by countless instances of mistreatment and disrespect..
He used non-violence as his mantra and as his way of acting, he was strategic in his actions, and he had the heart and the soul many so-called leaders and people in positions of power or authority only wish to have.
“When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of men we are.”
On March 31, California, Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah, and Wisconsin celebrate a formal state holiday, and schools and state offices are closed in remembrance. Colorado and Texas celebrate an optional holiday. Nebraska and Nevada have made it a festival day.
Across the nation, thousands celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, honoring his legacy, remembering his teachings, and more importantly, getting inspired by what he did. In 2014, President Obama issued a proclamation making Cesar Chavez Day a commemorative holiday, and there is a movement and a petition gathering firms to make it a national US holiday.
Along with appreciating the work done by Cesar Chavez, the appreciation extends to Dolores Huerta, Fred Ross, Arturo Rodriguez and the hundreds of activists, labor leaders, elected officials, and others who supported such an important movement, and those who continue to work to protect the rights of one of the most vulnerable communities: farm workers.
Cesar Chavez charisma, passion and vision, and his non-violent, tireless work organizing and empowering farm workers and confronting the people and systems who oppressed them, made his mark and as time goes, his mark prevails. A powerful legacy many are inspired by.
¡Que Viva Cesar Chavez!