Cesar Estrada Chavez was born March 31, 1927, on the small farm near Yuma, Arizona that his grandfather homesteaded during the 1880s. At age 10, life began as a migrant farmworker when his father lost the land during the Depression. These were bitterly poor years for Cesar, his parents, brothers, and sisters. Together with thousands of other displaced families, the Chavez family migrated throughout the Southwest, laboring in fields and vineyards. Cesar left school after the eighth grade to help support his family.
Cesar served as CSO national director in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But his dream was to create an organization to help farmworkers whose suffering he had shared. In 1962, after failing to convince the CSO to commit itself to farmworker organizing, he resigned his paid CSO job, the first regular paying job he had. He moved to Delano, California where he founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA).
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $12
In September 1965, Cesar’s NFWA, with 1200 member families, joined an AFL-CIO sponsored union in a strike against major Delano area table and wine grape growers. Against great odds, Cesar led a successful five-year strike-boycott that rallied millions of supporters to the United Farm Workers. He forged a national support coalition of unions, church groups, students, minorities, and consumers. The two unions merged in 1966 to form the UFW, and it became affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Cesar called for a new worldwide grape boycott. By 1975, a Louis Harris poll showed 17 million American adults were honoring the grape boycott. It forced growers to support then California Governor Jerry Brown’s collective bargaining law for farmworkers, the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Since 1975, the UFW won most of the union elections in which it participated. Despite the farm labor board’s bureaucratic delays, farmworkers made progress. By the early 1980s farmworkers numbered in the tens of thousands were working under UFW contracts enjoyed higher pay, family health coverage, pension benefits, and other contract protections.
In 1991, Cesar received the Aguila Azteca (The Aztec Eagle), Mexico’s highest award presented to people of Mexican heritage who have made major contributions outside of Mexico. On August 8, 1994, Cesar became the second Mexican American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. President Bill Clinton presented this award posthumously.
Cesar Chavez passed away on April 23, 1993, at the age of 66. More than 40,000 people participated in Cesar’s funeral at Delano. He was laid to rest at La Paz in a rose garden at the foot of the hill he often climbed to watch the sunrise.
The United States has a history of prejudice and racism. On a national level, this plays a major role in the way people conduct their lives. Mexicans have been exploited for their work for decades. One man fought long and hard for his people and their civil liberties. That man was Cesar Chavez.
Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona to a middle-class family. Cesar s family-owned their land and also ran a business. When the depression hit in the 1930 s, the young Cesar Chavez and his family left to find work in California as farm laborers because they had lost everything that they owned. This period of Cesar s life was what formed the way he looked at farm labor. Having never worked in the fields, Cesar quickly realized what it was like to be a farm laborer.
Cesar was born into a politically active family. Cesar s father was very active in his community in Yuma, Arizona. While working as a farm laborer, Cesar s father joined many labor unions. In 1952, Cesar found a job as a volunteer in the community service organization. As a volunteer, he would register voters by going door to door. Shortly after he started to volunteer work, Cesar was made chairman of the registration drive. During the mid-1950 s, Cesar became a full-time organizer for the CSO and received 35 dollars a week for his work. He was assigned to a voter registration drive in De Coto, a town in Alameda County. This job was very successful, then Cesar was made a state-wide organizer. Cesar fought the farmer’s exploitation by questioning the legitimacy of the Bracero program.
In 1958, Ceaser went on to Oxnard, to support a local labor union strike. He found that the locals were upset because the Braceros were taking their jm workers. This was the beginning of La Causa, a cause that was supported by organized labor, religious groups, minorities, and students. That same year, the red and black flag with the UFW eagle was designed. Cesar made reference to the flag by saying A symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec Eagle. It gives pride…when people see it they know it means dignity.
Cesar Chavez had the foresight to train his union workers and then send them into the cities where they were used to boycott and picket. Cesar was strongly against non-violence and always used non-violent tactics. Because of the pleasure of organized labor and other Mexican American Rights groups, the government canceled the bracero program in 1964.
It wasn’t long until Cesar Chavez gained the moral support of Mexican Officials and Labor Leaders in Mexico. Cesar Chavez was so determined to achieve the proper civil rights that his people deserved, that he was willing to sacrifice his own life. So the union could continue and that violence was not used. In 1968 Cesar went on a water-only 25 day fast. He repeated the fast in 1972 for 24 days and in 1988for 36 days. His reasons for fasting were to keep self-respect for the people and to build a great union through the commitment to the struggle for justice through non-violence. Many events.
Eventually the UFW succeeded in forcing the major growers to sign a historic agreement. On July 29, 1970, 26 Delano growers formally signed contracts stating their plan for the vast improvement of working conditions for thousands of farmworkers. This was the first time in the history of the farm Labor that growers had settled and negotiated a contract with a union representing migrant workers.
During the 1980 s problems arose. Chavez was once again calling for a boycott on grapes in order to terminate their use of harmful pesticides in the fields and to get them to sign contracts with the UFW. During this time Cesar Chavez said, History will judge societies and governments__and their institutions__not by how big they are, or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless. Cesar Chavez followed his heart and fought long and hard for what he believed in– freedom and equality for the disenfranchised.. Not often does someone come along that is Charismatic, peaceful, relentless, and as pure as Cesar Chavez was.
In 1993, Cesar Chavez, still hard at work with duties of the UFW, is recorded to have died in his sleep with a smile on his face. He was 66 years old. Today the UFW still exists and continues to fight for the rights of farmworkers. Cesar lived a full meaningful life and accomplished many great things that changed the way of life many people then, now and in the future.
Today, Cesar Chavez is known as a civil rights leader who spoke for the privileges of migrant workers in America and made a major impact in today’s agricultural politics. Chavez was part of the agricultural slavery in the United States and fought for what he, and other migrant workers believed is right. Many of his peers agreed that they deserved much more in return for their work and Chavez and his followers unionized to start a revolution to make their voices heard.
Chavez and the unions and organizations that he has helped form are known for their devotion to nonviolence. These civil tactics helped form an understanding between immigrant workers and their economy that would lead to more fairness within agricultural employment. If it weren’t for Cesar Chavez, modern civil rights would be much different from how we know it today.
Cesar Chavez was born in the agricultural town of Yuma Arizona, right near the Mexican border, where many immigrants traveled to looking for work in the fields. Growing up, Chavez’s family owned a small ranch that was lost during the great depression. “Issues of ethnicity and citizenship complicated all members of the Chavez family.” (Carnes, 5) His family also eventually lost their home and, desperate for an income, Chavez’s parents realized that they needed to go to California and work in the fields to provide for their family and begin a new life. Cesar Chavez and his family worked in the fields of California for years in an effort to make a living. As a teenager, Cesar saw it necessary that he quit school to become a full-time field worker, to relieve his mother.
After four years in the fields, Cesar Chavez decided to join the United States Navy. His time in the military allowed him to travel across the world and see things from a new, broader perspective. Chavez ended up quitting after two years, however, and considered it the worst time of his life. When he went back to the fields, Chavez tried convincing migrant workers to stand for their beliefs and register to vote so that they could have a voice. “Cesar Chavez knew their struggles firsthand. (Grossman, 3) Cesar Chavez encouraged migrant workers to unionize, and fight for their freedom in a peaceful manner in order to see results. His encouragement embedded hope in the minds of migrant workers that together, they can make a difference and their voices can be heard.
Cesar Chavez was gradually gaining followers who shared many of his beliefs, which helped him grow popularity, thus gaining power. As Chavez became more powerful, he began encouraging people to do something about the issues and started mass strikes against major agricultural companies. “From the beginning of the strike, Chavez emphasized the importance of nonviolence in his strategy”. (Garcia, 46) Cesar Chavez and the many organizations that supported his ideals gained supporters over time until an entire revolution had begun.
Many of the migrant field workers were catholic, as was Cesar Chavez, so he used that unity to his advantage, making it one of his tactics toward spreading his power. “Chavez consciously integrated the Catholic faith into his movement. By doing so, he endowed the union with a strong sense of collective identity.” (Prouty, 23) Sharing the religious beliefs with his group of followers gave Chavez an opportunity to use religion to back his opinions toward human equality and peace. “Chavez’s catholic faith and the writings of his hero, Gandhi, turned the farm labor leader into a stalwart champion of nonviolence” (Martin, 748) Chavez incorporated prayer into some of his gatherings and teamed up with bishops of the Catholic Church, which raised his credibility and trustworthiness.
Cesar Chavez helped organize the Community Service Organization in 1952 that brought together Latin Americans that wanted to gain rights and freedom. He then founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. These organizations ultimately joined to fight agricultural standards in California as one, resulting in improved conditions for workers that would last for many years to come. Chávez, who had been organizing farmworkers to protest low wages and rent increases in the migrant labor camps, joined with other organizations in 1965 to support a strike against grape growers in Delano. Organized by the Filipino workers of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), the strike was also supported by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). (Garcia, 1) Chavez and his large group of supporters won many other small battles that would soon create an entire revolution. All of the protests in this uprising were peaceful, such as hunger strikes and peaceful protests.
The impact that Cesar made in California was much needed at the time when many migrant families were struggling with extreme poverty. “Chavez became the first person to successfully organize California’s farmworkers.” (Prouty, 30) Many people migrated to America for work in the early 1900s, and agriculture was a very labor-intensive career that always seemed to have openings, as the crops were constantly growing.
With an increasing demand for field workers, their days got longer and more difficult, but as more migrants came to work in the United States, their wages also got lower. This combination created a very one-sided economy in favor of American farmers that abused these migrants. Cesar Chavez did everything in his power to open the eyes of these workers to the unfair standards in which they worked so that they would stand with him for justice.
The news of Cesar Chavez’s revolts spread across the nation, inspiring migrant workers in other parts of the United States to follow his tactics and stand for their freedom. In states like Texas and Ohio, which also have a lot of agricultural work, had many similar unions formed and migrant workers fought the same battle that Chavez and his organizations had started on the west coast. Chavez drew attention for his causes via boycotts, marches and hunger strikes”. Chavez’s tactics worked so well because they were nonviolent and relatable to his audience.
“The influence of Chavez and his union continues to stretch far beyond the fields. They are credited with inspiring generations of Latinos and other Americans to social and political activism”. (Martin, 750) Chavez’s influence as well as that of his organizations gave hope to so many American workers in the 1900s that there were revolutions starting all over the United States.
One of the largest and most successful strikes lead by Cesar Chavez was the Salad Bowl Strike. This strike consisted of thousands of people who protested and boycotted to make their opinions against unfair treatment heard and make a difference. In 1970, migrant workers across the United States protested and boycotted and made so much noise across America, that the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act was immediately put into action. The purpose of this act was to ensure equality and justice for all field workers and protect the rights of said employees.
Cesar Chavez’s ideals for a revolution did not end with the unfair treatment of migrant field workers, he also had strong feelings against illegal immigration. Chavez felt that illegal immigrants harmed his unions and discredited. He fought in support of the strong United States and Mexican border, preventing people from entering America illegally as noncitizens. In 1986, Chavez helped pass the Federal Immigration Act which allowed legal migrant workers more stability in their jobs.
Another one of Cesar Chavez’s shocking impacts came when he began openly supporting the gay and lesbian population and their rights. Chavez believed in freedom and liberty for all men, regardless of gender, race, and sexuality. Cesar Chavez fought against many bills that would have harmed the LGBT community, such as the Briggs Amendment which would have prevented gay or lesbian people from becoming teachers in California schools. Chavez’s assistance with the growing fairness of the treatment had a major impact but is still an ongoing and unfinished movement.
The major revolution that was spreading across the nation could not be the work of just one man, so Cesar Chavez gathered other leaders to help him grow his unions. Chavez gathered intellectuals and people who were educated on economics to guide the field workers’ understanding of the issues and show them how to effectively make a change for the better. “Chavez gradually assembled a remarkably talented group of individuals and shaped them into the leadership of the union” (Carnes, 67) As more leaders were stepping up to speak for the civil rights of migrant workers, more people started to follow the unions and join the cause to help Chavez in his fight for justice.
There were however many hardships mixed in with the victories of the fight for fairness. The unions faced many political struggles that prevented their points from being recognized. “By the 1980s the [union] had lost its earlier momentum. In 1984 only fifteen of the seventy grape growers in the Delano area were under a UFW contract.” (Garcia, 134) As the movement steadily lost followers, Cesar Chavez and his partners had to work even harder to fight. They were able to successfully pass acts that were making visible change for field workers, which brought back many of their followers and allowed the revolution to grow once again to a steadily moving force that would result in big changes for the future.
Cesar Chavez started his life at the core of American fieldwork and grew up surrounded by poverty and injustice caused by the unfair treatment of thousands of migrant workers. Chavez worked his way up from a field worker to an advocate and leader by expressing his strong views and supporting people who wanted to make a change in the way their employers treated them.
The Unions that Chavez created made developments that continue to influence the politics of American agriculture today and have shaped the way that field workers fight for what they deserve. The battle for civil rights across the country has been molded by great leaders like Cesar Chavez and is an ongoing struggle that continues today, and will until justice is found for everyone.
César Chávez was born on March 31, 1927 into a Mexican-American family residing in Yuma, Arizona. The onset of the Great Depression 1929 stripped his parents of their farmland, forcing the whole family to submit to the toils of migrant farm work in the southwestern region of the United States. After completing the seventh grade, Chavez was forced to drop out of school in order to contribute to his family’s income by working alongside his parents and siblings in the fields.
It was here that he was subjected to the malicious racism that accompanied the insufficient wages he was paid for his grueling physical labor. This full-time job only lasted for two years, however, due to his joining of the Navy in 1944.
After serving in the Navy for two years during World War II, he moved to Delano, California for the prospect of working in nearby agricultural fields. Chavez married Helen Fabela, his high school sweetheart, in 1948; the pair eventually had eight children together. Chavez’s life was altered forever when he was recruited by Fred Ross to join the Community Service Organization in 1952. The Community Service Organization sought to help poor Latinos located in California by encouraging them to seek equality in their communities.
Through the CSO, Chavez was able to promote voter registration among these people. It was Chavez’s commitment to the CSO in the 1950s that laid the groundwork for the formation of the National Farm Workers Association was founded in 1962. His passion for uniting farmworkers through this union was fueled by his desire for higher wages and nonviolence for the minorities working as migrant farm laborers.
Although Chavez is mainly remembered as an advocate for worker’s rights, he also publically supported animal rights and the restriction of illegal immigration as it ruptured the plight of the poor migrant workers. After decades of living life as an activist, Cesar Chavez passed away of natural causes at the age of sixty-six on April 23, 1993.
The legacy of Cesar Chavez is, most importantly, the foundation of the United Farm Workers. The United Farm Workers has since continued to adopt Chavez’s mission as their own by working to reduce discrimination against minority farmworkers. They have recently been successful in enforcing worker laws amongst various companies, namely heat regulations, as many workers have died of heat-related issues during the past decade.
This action is very similar to the work of Chavez who in the 1980s worked to protect workers from the prevalence of pesticide poisoning. Although no longer in operation, the legacy of Chavez also includes the establishment of the Colegio Cesar Chavez: the first accredited four-year institution for Latinos in the United States. His birthday has even become a holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas as a way to celebrate and promote community service in honor of his iconic status in American history.
Cesar Chavez was one of the most influential union organizers of the twentieth century thanks to his dedication to improving the labor conditions of his fellow minority farmworkers. Working conditions for farm laborers improved significantly due to his presidency of the United Farm Workers. Part of his appeal to the masses he so greatly inspired was the fact that he had the first-hand experience of the backbreaking work farm laborers were expected to perform.
The work Chavez did in terms of union organization and promotion paved the way for many milestones in the history of the United States; the first farm labor laws to be established in the United States came to be because of Chavez’s influence. Cesar Chavez will forever remain a symbol amongst the Latino community for dedication, nonviolence, and the pursuit of equality.
Through the years, individuals have shown that a single man can make a difference. Men who, when committed to a cause, will rise up with honor, integrity, and courage. Cesar Chavez was such a man. He represented the people and rose above his self concerns to meet the needs of the people. Cesar Chavez showed us that, The highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline. He lived by this standard and fought freedom with the highest form of dignity and character.
Cesar Chavez was born in 1927 to a farmer in Meza, Arizona. When Cesar was 10 years old, his father lost his farm and the family was forced to become migrant farmworkers in California. During this time he would encounter the conditions that dedicated his life to changing: wretched migrant camps, corrupt labor contractors, meager wages for backbreaking work, and bitter racism. He did not lose his dignity, however, and continued to strive to be the best he could be.
He joined the Navy during World War II and got a job as a fruit picker afterward. Around this time, he became committed to a self-help group known as The Community Service Organization. He became so committed to helping people through this organization, he had to leave his job as a fruit picker.
Chavez soon began to help the farmers of California. Using non-violent protest and The National Farm Workers Association, he began a boycott on grapes without labor union contracts. His protests gained publicity and soon exploded into a nationwide boycott on grapes and lettuce. The producers of these crops hired illegal workers and even people to beat protesters. Though many, including Chavez, were persecuted and even jailed, the boycott went on. After a long struggle that lasted into the 1970s, labor contracts were beginning to be signed, and farmers were being treated fairly.
Cesar Chavez continued to give his time to help farmers and maintain The National Farm Workers Association he started. He gave speeches, put on demonstrations, and fasted to support his cause. Lawsuits even arose against Chavez, but he continued to protest. In 1993, after fasting to protest a lawsuit brought on him by Brad Antel, he died in his sleep of liver, spleen, and kidney complications.
Cesar Chavez was a great man of morals, commitment, and love for his people. He dedicated his whole life to La Causa and lived as all men should live. Through his dedication and humanitarian acts he eliminated the persecution of farmers and Latinos in America. He showed everyone that hard work, dedication, and discipline are more powerful than racism, violence, and persecution. Through Cesar Chavez, America learned that “When you have people together who believe in something very strongly – whether it’s religion or politics or unions – things happen.”- Cesar Chavez.
“Non-violence really rest on the reservoir that you have to create in yourself of patience, not of being patient with the problems, but being patient with yourself to do the hard work.” – Cesar Chavez
What makes society look at a man as a leader? Is it the work that he does to help his community or is it the struggle they endure during their lifetime? Cesar Chavez was born into a migrant family and became one of the most recognized leaders for migrant workers. From his early days of working in the fields to his days in the US Navy and to his early days as a rights activist, Cesar Chavez has fought to have equal rights for Mexican-American migrant field workers.
One night in the 1880’s, a man named Cesario Chavez crossed the border from Chihuahua, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas. He was fleeing the hardships of his homeland to make a better life in the United States for his family. Decades later, his grandson, Cesar Chavez, would make a stand in the fields of California to fight for a better life for all farmworkers. Cesario and his wife Dorotea worked very hard. Their children married and had children. The whole family lived in the Arizona desert near the town of Yuma and worked as farmers. One of Cesario’s sons, Librado, married Juana Estrada, a woman who had also come from Chihuahua.
Together they had six children. Cesar, was born in 1927, he was their second child and the eldest son. Librado Chavez was a hardworking man, and he prospered. In addition to farming, he operated a general store and was elected the local postmaster. “I had more happy moments as a child than unhappy moments,” Chavez later recalled. Librado was good to his children, he even made their toys, but he was too busy to spend much time with them. “My mom kept the family together,” Chavez had said.
When Cesar was ten years old, disaster struck. Librado made a business deal with a neighbor who did not keep his part of the bargain. In the end, the Chavez family lost their farm and all their belongings. It was 1937, the period following the Stock Market crash, the country had not yet recovered from the Great Depression. There were very few jobs, and many people were homeless.
To make matters worse, the Southwest was experiencing severe droughts at this time. By 1938, the Chavez family had joined some 300,000 migrant workers who followed the crops to California. Migrant workers would travel all over the state, picking whatever was in season for the farm owners. The migrant workers had no permanent homes.
They lived in a dingy overcrowded family, most of them were of Mexican descent. quarters, without bathrooms, electricity, or running water. Sometimes, they lived in the pickup trucks in which they traveled. Like Chavez, going to school wasn’t easy for the children of the migrant workers, since they were always on the move. Cesar and his siblings attended more than thirty schools. Many times, their teachers were neither friendly or helpful.
The teachers of migrant children often felt that since these children would soon move on to other farms in other towns, teaching them wasn’t worth the effort. Some of these teachers were even prejudiced against Spanish-speaking students. “When we spoke Spanish,” Chavez remembers, “the teacher swooped down on us. I remember the ruler whistling through the air as its edge came down sharply across my knuckles. It really hurt. Even out in the playground, speaking Spanish brought punishment.” He remembers hating school. “It wasn’t the learning I hated, but the conflicts,” he recalls.
Despite all his difficulties in school, Cesar managed to graduate from the eighth grade. For migrant children in those days, graduation was an unusual occurrence. Chavez had worked part-time in the fields while he was in school. After graduation he began to work full-time. He preferred working in the vineyards because grape pickers generally stayed in the same place for a longer time.
He kept noticing that the labor contractors and the landowners exploited the workers. He tried reasoning with the farm owners about higher pay and better working conditions. But most of his fellow workers would not support him for fear of losing their jobs. As a solitary voice, Chavez had no power.
In 1944, he joined the United States Navy. At the end of his tour of duty, he returned to California to work in the fields. In 1948, he married a young woman named Helen Fabela, who shared his social concerns. They began teaching the Mexican farmworkers to read and write so they could take the test to become American citizens. They hoped that, as citizens, their fellow farm workers would be less afraid to join Cesar in his efforts to improve working conditions.
One day, a man from the local Community Service Organization wanted to recruit Chavez. He wanted him to join the organization to help inform the migrant workers with their rights. At first, Chavez was suspicious of the man because he was “Anglo,” or white. But the man from the Community Service Organization convinced him of his good intentions, and Chavez became a part-time organizer for the group.
During the day, he picked apricots on a farm. In the evening, he organized farmworkers to register to vote. He was so successful that he registered more than 2,000 workers in just two months. But he was so busy helping the farmworkers that he neglected his own work.
As a result, he lost his job in the fields. He then went to work full-time for the Community Service Organization. He had to organize meetings to tell the workers of their rights. He worried because he felt he wasn’t a good speaker. So at first, he did more listening than speaking. In time, he grew more confident and found that people listened to him and liked his message.
But, it was still very difficult to persuade the workers to fight for their rights. They were always afraid of losing their jobs. By 1962, he could no longer stand to see the workers being taken advantage of, watching as they worked long hours for low pay. At the age of thirty-five, he left his own well paid job to devote all his time to organizing the farm workers into a union.
His wife had to become a fruit picker in the fields to feed their children. Chavez traveled from camp to camp organizing the workers. In each camp, he recruited a few followers. By this time he had also gotten many other members of his family involved in the movement. At the end of six months, 300 members of the National Farm Workers Union, as the group was first called, met in Fresno, California. At that first meeting, they approved their flag, a red background with a black eagle in a white circle in the center. “La Causa” (The Cause) was born!
With a strong leader to represent them, the workers began to demand their rights for fair pay and better working conditions. Without these rights, no one would work in the fields. A major confrontation occurred in 1965. The grape growers didn’t listen to the union’s demands, and the farmhands wanted a strike. At first, Chavez wanted to avoid a strike, but he was finally convinced that there was no other way. The workers left the fields, and the un-harvested grapes began to rot on the vines. The growers hired illegal workers and brought in strike breakers and thugs to beat up the strikers.
The dispute was bitter. Union members-Chavez included- were jailed repeatedly. But public officials, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens from all across the United States flocked to California to march in support of the farm workers. Then, in 1970, some grape growers signed agreements with the union. The union lifted the grape boycott, and its members began to pick grapes again. That same year, Chavez thought that even people who could not travel to California could show their support for his cause. Thus he appealed for a nationwide boycott of lettuce.
People from all parts of the United States who sympathized with the cause of the farm workers refused to buy lettuce. Some even picketed in front of supermarkets. By 1973, the union had changed its name to the United Farm Workers of America. Relations with the grape growers had once again deteriorated, so a grape boycott was added to the boycott of lettuce. On several occasions, Chavez fasted to protest the violence that arose. Finally, by 1978, some of the workers’ conditions were met, and the United Farm Workers lifted the boycotts on lettuce and grapes.
In 1985, after several changes in the California labor laws, the unionized farm workers began to march again for better wages and improved working conditions. Today, the Chavez children- Paul, Ana, Anthony, Fernando, Eloise, Sylvia, and Linda all work for migrants’ rights. Chavez himself continued to lead marches, often accompanied by one or more of his grandchildren.
On April 23, 1993 Cesar Chavez passed away in his sleep in San Luis, Arizona, only 66 miles from his birthplace some 66 years earlier. More than 50,000 people attended his funeral services in the small town of Delano, California, the same community in which he had planted his seed for social justice only decades before. Cesar’s life cannot be measured in material terms. He never earned more than $6,000 a year. He never owned a house.
When Cesar passed, he had no savings to leave to his family. His motto in life-“si se puede” (it can be done)-embodies the uncommon and invaluable legacy he left for the world’s benefit. Since his death, dozens of communities across the nation have renamed schools, parks, streets, libraries, other public facilities, awards and scholarships in his honor, as well as enacting holidays on his birthday, March 31.
In 1994 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in America. Cesar Chavez-a common man with an uncommon vision for humankind-stood for equality, justice, and dignity for all Americans. His ecumenical principles remain relevant and inspiring today for all people. In 1993, his family and friends established the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation to educate people about the life and work of this great American civil rights leader, and to engage all, particularly youth, to carry on his values and timeless vision for a better world.
In the sixth decade of his life, he is as concerned as ever about dignity, justice, and fairness. He was ready to sacrifice for what he believes is right. “Fighting for social justice, it seems to me, is one of the profound ways in which man can say yes to man’s dignity, and that really means sacrifice,” Cesar has said. “There is no way on this earth in which you can say yes to man’s dignity and know that you’re going to be spared some sacrifice.”
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