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Cesar Chavez

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Cesar Chavez
Cesar chavez crop2.jpg
Chavez in 1974
César Estrada Chávez

(1927-03-31)March 31, 1927
DiedApril 23, 1993(1993-04-23) (aged 66)
Spouse(s)Helen Fabela Chávez
AwardsPresidential Medal of Freedom (1994)

Cesar Chavez (born César Estrada Chávez, locally [ˈsesaɾ esˈtɾaða ˈtʃaβes]; March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) was an American labor leader and Latino American civil rights activist. Along with Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, later renamed the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.

Born in Yuma, Arizona to a Mexican American family, in early life Chavez worked as a manual laborer and spent two years in the United States Navy. Relocating to California, where he married, he got involved in the Community Service Organization (CSO), through which he helped laborers register to vote. In 1959, he became the CSO's national director, a position based in Los Angeles. In 1962 he left the CSO to co-found the UFW, based in Delano, California. Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist, and was strongly promoted by the American labor movement, which was eager to enroll Hispanic members, his public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers' struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. By the late 1970s, his tactics had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida.

In later life, he also became an advocate for veganism. During his lifetime, Colegio Cesar Chavez was one of the few institutions named in his honor, but after his death he became a major historical icon for the Latino community, with many schools, streets, and parks being named after him, he has since become an icon for organized labor and leftist politics, symbolizing support for workers and for Hispanic empowerment based on grass roots organizing. He is also famous for popularizing the slogan "Sí, se puede" (Spanish for "Yes, one can" or, roughly, "Yes, it can be done"), which was adopted as the 2008 campaign slogan of Barack Obama. Although the UFW faltered a few years after Chavez died in 1993, his work led to numerous improvements for union laborers.

Chavez posthumously became an iconic "folk saint" in the pantheon of Mexican Americans,[1] his birthday, March 31, is a federal commemorative holiday (Cesar Chavez Day) observed by several states in the US. He received many honors and accolades, while still living and after his death, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.

Early life

Childhood: 1927–1945

Cesar Estrada Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona on March 31, 1927,[2] he was named for his paternal grandfather, Cesario Chavez, a Mexican who had crossed into Texas in 1898.[3] Cesario had established a successful wood haulage business near Yuma and in 1906 bought a farm in the Sonora Desert's North Gila Valley.[4] Cesario had brought his wife Dorotea and eight children with him from Mexico; the youngest, Librado, was Cesar's father.[3] Librado married Juana Estrada Chavez in the early 1920s.[5] Born in Ascensión, Chihuahua, she had crossed into the U.S. with her mother as a baby. They lived in Picacho, California before moving to Yuma, where Juana worked as a farm laborer and then an assistant to the chancellor of the University of Arizona.[6] Librado and Juana's first child, Rita, was born in August 1925, with their first son, Cesar, following nearly two years later.[7] In November 1925, Librado and Juana bought a series of buildings near to the family home which included a pool hall, store, and living quarters, they soon fell into debt and were forced to sell these assets, in April 1929 moving into the galera storeroom of Librado's parental home, then owned by the widowed Dorotea.[8]

Chavez was raised in what his biographer Miriam Pawel called "a typical extended Mexican family";[3] she noted that they were "not well-off, but they were comfortable, well clothed, and never hungry";[9] the family spoke in Spanish,[10] and he was raised as a Roman Catholic, with his paternal grandmother Dorotea largely overseeing his religious instruction;[11] his mother Juana engaged in forms of folk Catholicism, being a devotee of Santa Eduviges.[12] As a child, Chavez was nicknamed "Manzi" in reference to his fondness for manzanilla tea.[7] To entertain himself, he played handball and listened to boxing matches on the radio.[13] One of six children, he had two sisters, Rita and Vicki, and two brothers, Richard and Librado.[14][15]

He began attending Laguna Dam School in 1933; there, the speaking of Spanish was forbidden and Cesario was expected to change his name to Cesar.[16] After Dorotea died in July 1937, the Yuma County local government auctioned off her farmstead to cover back taxes, and despite Librado's delaying tactics, the house and land were sold in 1939;[17] this was a seminal experience for Cesar, who regarded it as an injustice against his family, with the banks, lawyers, and Anglo-American power structure as the villains of the incident.[18] Influenced by his Roman Catholic beliefs, he increasingly came to see the poor as a source of moral goodness in society.[19]

The Chavez family joined the growing number of American migrants who were moving to California amid the Great Depression.[20] First working as avocado pickers in Oxnard and then as pea pickers in Pescadero, the family made it to San Jose, where they first lived in a garage in the city's impoverished Mexican district,[21] they moved regularly, and at weekends and holidays Cesar joined his family in working as an agricultural laborer.[22] In California, he moved schools many times, spending the longest time at Miguel Hidalgo Junior School; here, his grades were generally average, although he excelled at mathematics.[23] At school, he faced ridicule for his poverty,[21] while more broadly he experienced anti-Latino prejudice from many European-Americans, with many establishments refusing to serve non-white customers,[24] he graduated from junior high in June 1942, after which he left formal education and became a full-time farm laborer.[23][25]

Early adulthood: 1946–1953

In the early 1950s, Chavez was introduced to the ideas about non-violent protest purported by Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi

In March 1946, Chavez enlisted in the United States Navy, and was sent to the Naval Training Center San Diego.[26] In July he was stationed at the U.S. base in Saipan, and six months later moved to Guam, where he was promoted to the rank of seaman first class.[27] He was then stationed to San Francisco, where he decided to leave the Navy, receiving an honorable discharge in January 1948.[28] Relocating to Delano, California, where his family had settled, he returned to working as an agricultural laborer.[29]

Chavez entered a relationship with Helen Fabela, who soon became pregnant,[30] they married in Reno, Nevada in October 1948; it was a double wedding, with Chavez's sister Rita marrying her fiancé at the same ceremony.[31] By early 1949, Chavez and his new wife had settled in the Sal Si Puedes neighborhood of San Jose, where many of his other family members were now living,[32] their first child, Fernando, was born there in February 1949; a second, Sylvia, followed in February 1950; and then a third, Linda, in January 1951.[31] The latter had been born shortly after they had relocated to Crescent City, where Chavez was employed in the lumber industry,[31] they then returned to San Jose, where Chavez worked as an apricot picker and then as a lumber handler for the General Box Company.[33]

Here, he befriended two social justice activists, Fred Ross and Father Donald McDonnell, both European-Americans whose activism was primarily within the Mexican-American community.[34] Chavez helped Ross establish a chapter of his Community Service Organization (CSO) in San Jose, and joined him in voter registration drives,[35] he was soon voted vice president of the CSO chapter.[36] He also helped McDonnell construct the first purpose-built church in Sal Si Puedes, the Our Lady of Guadalupe church, which was opened in December 1953.[37] In turn, McDonnell lent Chavez books, encouraging the latter to develop a love of reading. Among the books were biographies of the saint Francis of Assisi, the U.S. labour organizers John L. Lewis and Eugene V. Debs, and the Indian independence activist Mahatma Gandhi, introducing Chavez to the ideas of non-violent protest.[38]

Early activism

Working for the Community Service Organization: 1953–1962

In late 1953, Chavez was laid off by the General Box Company.[39] Ross then secured funds so that the CSO could employ Chavez as an organizer, travelling around California setting up other chapters.[40] In this job, he travelled across Decoto, Salinas, Fresno, Brawley, San Bernardino, Madera, and Bakersfield.[41] Many of the CSO chapters fell apart after Ross or Chavez ceased running them, and to prevent this Saul Alinsky advised them to unite the chapters, of which there were over twenty, into a self-sustaining national organisation.[42] In late 1955, Chavez returned to San Jose to rebuild the CSO chapter there so that it could sustain an employed full-time organizer. To raise funds, he opened a rummage store, organized a three-day carnival and sold Christmas trees, although often made a loss.[43]

In early 1957 he moved to Brawley to rebuild the chapter there,[44] his repeated moving meant that his family were regularly uprooted;[45] he saw little of his wife and children, and was absent for the birth of his sixth child.[46] Chavez grew increasingly disillusioned with the CSO, believing that middle-class members were becoming increasingly dominant and were pushing its priorities and allocation of funds in directions he disapproved of; he for instance opposed the decision to hold the organization's 1957 convention in Fresco's Hacienda Hotel, arguing that its prices were prohibitive for poorer members.[47] Amid the wider context of the Cold War and McCarthyite suspicions that leftist activism was a front for Marxist-Leninist groups, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began monitoring Chavez and opened a file on him.[48]

At Alinsky's instigation, the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) paid $20,000 to the CSO for the latter to open a branch in Oxnard; Chavez became its organizer, working with the largely Mexican farm laborers.[49] In Oxnard, Chavez worked to encourage voter registration,[50] he repeatedly heard concerns from local Mexican-American laborers that they were being routinely passed over or fired so that employers could hire cheaper Mexican guest workers, or braceros, in violation of federal law.[51] To combat this practice, he established the CSO Employment Committee that launched a "registration campaign" through which unemployed farm-workers could sign their name to highlight their desire for work;[52] the Committee targeted its criticism at Hector Zamora, the director of the Ventura County Farm Labourers Association, who controlled the most jobs in the area.[53] It also used sit ins of workers to raise the profile of their cause, a tactic also being used by proponents of the civil rights movement in the South at that time,[54] it had some success in getting companies to replace braceros with unemployed Americans.[55] Its campaign also ensured that federal officials began properly investigating complaints about the use of braceros and received assurances from the state farm placement service that they would seek out unemployed Americans rather than automatically hiring bracero labor.[56] In May, the Employment Committee was formerly transferred from the CSO to the UPWA.[57]

In 1959, Chavez moved to Los Angeles to become the CSO's national director.[58] He, his wife, and (now) eight children settled into the largely Mexican neighborhood of Boyle Heights,[59] he found the CSO's financial situation was bad, with even his own salary in jeopardy.[59] He laid off several organizers to keep the organization afloat,[60] he tried to organise a life insurance scheme among CSO members to raise funds, but this project failed to materialise.[61] Under Chavez, the CSO secured financing from wealthier donors and organisations, usually to finance specific projects for a set period of time; the California American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) for instance paid it $12,000 to conduct voter registration schemes in six counties with high Mexican populations.[62] The wealthy benefactor Katy Peake then offered it $50,000 over three years to organise California's farm workers.[63] Under Chavez's leadership, the CSO assisted the successful campaign to get the government to extend the state pension to non-citizens who were permanent residents.[64] At the ninth annual CSO convention in March 1962, Chavez resigned.[65]

The Farm Workers Association: 1962–

In April 1962, Chavez and his family moved to Delano, where they rented a house on Kensington Street,[66] he was intent on forming a labor union for farm workers but, to conceal this aim, told people that he was simply conducting a census of farm workers to determine their needs.[67] He began devising the Farm Workers Association, referring to it as a "movement" rather than a trade union,[68] he was aided in this project by his wife and by his friend, Dolores Huerta.[69] He spent his days traveling around the San Joaquin Valley, meeting with workers and encouraging them to join his association.[70] At the time, he lived off a combination of unemployment benefit, his wife's wage as a farmworker, and donations from friends and sympathizers.[71] In September 1962 he formalized the Association at a convention in Fresno.[72] There, delegates elected Chavez as the group's general-director,[73] they also agreed that, once the association had a life insurance policy up and running, members would start paying monthly dues of $3.50.[73] The group adopted the motto "viva la causa" and a flag featuring a black eagle on a red and white background.[74]

Activism, 1952–1976

National Farm Workers Association political activism buttons

Workers' rights

In 1962, Chavez left the CSO and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) with Dolores Huerta, it was later called the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Chavez speaking at a 1974 United Farm Workers rally in Delano, California.

When Filipino American farm workers initiated the Delano grape strike on September 8, 1965, to protest for higher wages, Chavez eagerly supported them. Six months later, Chavez and the NFWA led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farmworkers march from Delano to the California state capitol in Sacramento for similar goals; the UFW encouraged all Americans to boycott table grapes as a show of support. The strike lasted five years and attracted national attention. Chavez received support from labor leader Walter Reuther who, in December 1965, marched with the striking grape pickers in Delano. Reuther's support made it difficult for the grape growers to ignore the strikers. During his visit, Reuther committed to provide $7,500 per month to the farm workers' strike fund for the duration of the walkout. At a packed union hall, Reuther declared, "This is not your strike, this is our strike!" In March 1966, the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare's Subcommittee on Migratory Labor held hearings in California on the strike. During the hearings, subcommittee member Robert F. Kennedy expressed his support for the striking workers.[75][place missing][76]

These activities led to similar movements in Southern Texas in 1966, where the UFW supported fruit workers in Starr County, Texas, and led a march to Austin, in support of UFW farm workers' rights. In the Midwest, Chavez's movement inspired the founding of two midwestern independent unions: Obreros Unidos in Wisconsin in 1966, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Ohio in 1967. Former UFW organizers would also found the Texas Farm Workers Union in 1975.

This historic building is the Santa Rita Center (also known as Santa Rita Hall). It is where Cesar Chavez began his 24-day hunger strike on May 11, 1972. Coretta King met with Chavez in the hall during his fast; the structure was listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register on October 2007.

In the early 1970s, the UFW organized strikes and boycotts—including the Salad Bowl strike, the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history—to protest for, and later win, higher wages for those farm workers who were working for grape and lettuce growers. He began fasting to draw public attention. UFW organizers believed that a reduction in produce sales by 15% was sufficient to wipe out the profit margin of the boycotted product.

Chavez undertook a number of "spiritual fasts", regarding the act as "a personal spiritual transformation".[77] In 1968, he fasted for 25 days, promoting the principle of nonviolence.[78] In 1970, Chavez began a fast of "thanksgiving and hope" to prepare for pre-arranged civil disobedience by farm workers;[79] also in 1972, he fasted in response to Arizona's passage of legislation that prohibited boycotts and strikes by farm workers during the harvest seasons.[79] These fasts were influenced by the Catholic tradition of penance and by Mohandas Gandhi's fasts and emphasis of nonviolence.[78]


The UFW during Chavez's tenure was committed to restricting import of immigrant labor. On a few occasions, concerns that illegal immigrant labor would undermine UFW strike campaigns led to a number of controversial events, which the UFW describes as anti-strikebreaking events, but which have also been interpreted as being anti-immigrant. In 1969, Chavez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperial and Coachella Valleys to the border of Mexico to protest growers' use of illegal immigrants as strikebreakers. Joining him on the march were Reverend Ralph Abernathy and U.S. Senator Walter Mondale.[80] In its early years, the UFW and Chavez went so far as to report illegal immigrants who served as strikebreaking replacement workers (as well as those who refused to unionize) to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.[81][82][83][84][85] In 1973, the United Farm Workers set up a "wet line" along the United States-Mexico border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the United States illegally and potentially undermining the UFW's unionization efforts.[86] During one such event, in which Chavez was not involved, some UFW members, under the guidance of Chavez's cousin Manuel, physically attacked the strikebreakers after peaceful attempts to persuade them not to cross the border failed.[87][88][89]

In 1973, the UFW was one of the first labor unions to oppose proposed employer sanctions that would have prohibited hiring illegal immigrants. Later during the 1980s, while Chavez was still working alongside Huerta, he was key in getting the amnesty provisions into the 1986 federal immigration act.[90]

Legislative campaigns

Chavez had long preferred grassroots action to legislative work, but in 1974, propelled by the recent election of the pro-union Jerry Brown as governor of California, as well as a costly battle with the Teamsters union over the organizing of farmworkers, Chavez decided to try to work toward legal victories.[91] Once in office, Brown's support for the UFW cooled;[91] the UFW decided to organize a 110-mile (180 km) march by a small group of UFW leaders from San Francisco to the E & J Gallo Winery in Modesto. Just a few hundred marchers left San Francisco on February 22, 1975. By the time they reached Modesto on March 1, however, more than 15,000 people had joined the march en route;[91] the success of the Modesto march garnered significant media attention, and helped convince Brown and others that the UFW still had significant popular support.[91]

Chavez placing Jerry Brown's name for nomination during the roll call vote at the 1976 Democratic National Convention

On June 4, 1975, Governor Brown signed into law the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA), which established collective bargaining for farmworkers; the act set up the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to oversee the process.

In mid-1976, the ALRB ran out of its budgeted money for the year, as a result of a massive amount of work in setting up farmworker elections; the California legislature refused to allocate more money, so the ALRB closed shop for the year.[92] In response, Chavez gathered signatures in order to place Proposition 14 on the ballot, which would guarantee the right of union organizers to visit and recruit farmworkers, even if it meant trespassing on private property controlled by farm owners; the proposition went before California voters in November 1976, but was defeated by a 2–1 margin.[92]

Setbacks and a change of direction, 1976–1988

As a result of the failure of Proposition 14, Chavez decided that the UFW suffered from disloyalty, poor motivation, and lack of communication,[92] he felt that the union needed to turn into a "movement".[93] He took inspiration from the Synanon community of California (which he had visited previously), which had begun as a drug rehabilitation center before turning into a New Age religious organization.[94] Synanon had pioneered what they referred to as "the Game", in which each member would be singled out in turn to receive harsh, profanity-laced criticism from the rest of the community.[94] Chavez instituted "the Game" at UFW, having volunteers, including senior members of the organization, receive verbal abuse from their peers,[94] he also fired many members, whom he accused of disloyalty; in some cases he accused volunteers of being spies for either the Republican Party or the Communists.[93]

In 1977, Chavez attempted to reach out to Filipino-American farmworkers in a way that ended up backfiring. Acting on the advice of former UFW leader Andy Imutan, Chavez met with then-President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos in Manila and endorsed the regime, which was seen by human rights advocates and religious leaders as a vicious dictatorship; this caused a further rift within the UFW, which led to Philip Vera Cruz's resignation from the organization.[95][96][97][98]

During this time, Chavez also clashed with other UFW members about policy issues, including the possible creation of local unions for the UFW, which was typical for national unions but which Chavez was firmly against, on the grounds that it detracted from his vision for the UFW as a movement.[92] During this period, dissent within the union was removed, with some attacked by Chavez claiming they were communist infiltrators.[99]

By the end of the 1970s, only one member of the UFW's original board of directors remained in place.[92] Still, before the turn of the 1980s decade, Chavez's tactics had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida. Meanwhile, membership in the UFW union had been in decline and by the mid-1980s it had dwindled to around 15,000.[100] In the 1980s, with the UFW declining, Chavez got into real-estate development; some of the development projects he was involved with used non-union construction workers, which The New Yorker later termed an "embarrassment".[93]

In 1988, Chavez attempted another grape boycott, to protest the exposure of farmworkers to pesticides. Bumper stickers reading "NO GRAPES" and "UVAS NO" (the translation in Spanish) were widespread.[101] However, the boycott failed; as a result, Chavez undertook what was to be his last fast. He fasted for 35 days before being convinced by others to start eating again, he lost 30 pounds during the fast, and it caused health problems that may have contributed to his death.[93]


The grave of César Chávez is located in the garden of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, California.

Chavez died on April 23, 1993, of unspecified natural causes in San Luis, Arizona, in the home of former farm worker and longtime friend Dofla Maria Hau.[25] Chavez was in Arizona helping UFW attorneys defend the union against a lawsuit. Shortly after his death, his widow, Helen Chavez, donated his black nylon union jacket to the National Museum of American History, a branch of the Smithsonian.[102]

Chavez is buried at the National Chavez Center, on the headquarters campus of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), at 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Road in the Keene community of unincorporated Kern County, California.[103][104]

He received belated full military honors from the US Navy at his graveside on April 23, 2015, the 22nd anniversary of his death.[105]

Personal life

The union's survival, its very existence, sent out a signal to all Hispanics that we were fighting for our dignity. That we were challenging and overcoming injustice, that we were empowering the least educated among us, the poorest among us; the message was clear. If it could happen in the fields, it could happen anywhere: in the cities, in the courts, in the city councils, in the state legislatures. I didn't really appreciate it at the time, but the coming of our union signalled the start of great changes among Hispanics that are now only beginning to be seen.

— Cesar Chavez, 1984[106]

When Chavez returned home from his service in the military in 1948, he married his high school sweetheart, Helen Fabela; the couple moved to San Jose, California.[25] With his wife, he had eight children: Fernando (b.1949), Sylvia (b.1950), Linda (b.1951), Eloise (b.1952), Anna (b.1953), Paul (b.1957), Elizabeth (b.1958), and Anthony (b.1958).[107]

Physically, Chavez was short,[45] and had jet black hair.[108] Bruns described him as being "outwardly shy and unimposing".[108] Like many farm laborers, he experienced severe back pain throughout his life.[108]

Chavez was not a great orator; according to Pawel, "his power lay not in words, but in actions",[109] she noted that he was "not an articulate speaker",[45] and similarly, Bruns observed that he "had no special talent as a public speaker".[110] He was softly-spoken,[111] and according to Pawel had an "informal, conversational style",[112] and was "good at reading people",[45] he described his own life's work as a crusade against injustice,[109] and displayed a commitment to self-sacrifice.[113] Pawel thought that "Chavez thrived on the power to help people and the way that made him feel".[45]

Chavez was a Roman Catholic whose faith strongly influenced both his social activism and his personal outlook.[19][114][115][116] Chavez was a vegan, both because he believed in animal rights and also for his health.[117][118][119] Chavez had a love of the music of Duke Ellington and Big Band music.[26]


[Chavez's] dream was to found a labor union of farmworkers. He had no money, no political connections, and no experience, he was not a particularly dynamic personality and had no special talent as a public speaker. The dream, he knew, was almost fanciful. Nevertheless, through determination, grit, and a dogged will to win, he forged a movement that successfully challenged powerful entrenched economic and political interests and helped thousands of Mexican Americans to new cultural self-awareness.

— Roger Bruns, 2005[110]

Cesar Chavez's work with the United Farm Workers is documented through his archival collection at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University. The collection contains original documents from 1947-1984 and reflects Chavez's beginnings with the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee and the UFW as well as some milestones in his personal life.[120]

Pawel referred to Chavez as "an improbable idol in an era of telegenic leaders and charismatic speakers".[109]

When the Democratic candidate Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency in 2008, he used Sí se puede—translated into English as "Yes we can"—as one of his main campaign slogans;[121] when Obama was seeking re-election in 2012, he visited Chavez's grave and placed a rose upon it, also declaring his Union Headquarters to be a national monument.[121]

There is a portrait of Chavez in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.[122]

In 2003, the United States Postal Service honored Chavez with a postage stamp.[123]

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) nominated him three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.[124]

One of Chavez's grandchildren is the professional golfer Sam Chavez.

Awards and honors

Places and things named after Cesar Chavez

Chavez visiting Colegio Cesar Chavez.

Across the United States, and especially in California, there have been many parks, streets, schools, libraries, university buildings and other establishments named after Chavez. In addition, the census-designated place of Cesar Chavez, Texas is named after him. Plaza de César Chávez in San Jose, California was named in 1993 after Chavez, who lived in the city for a period.

Colegio Cesar Chavez, named after Chavez while he was still alive, was a four-year "college without walls" in Mount Angel, Oregon, intended for the education of Mexican-Americans, that ran from 1973 to 1983.[130]

On May 18, 2011, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that the Navy would be naming the last of 14 Lewis and Clark-class cargo ships after Cesar Chavez;[131] the USNS Cesar Chavez was launched on May 5, 2012.[132]


The National Chavez Center, Keene, California.

In 2004, the National Chavez Center was opened on the UFW national headquarters campus in Keene by the César E. Chávez Foundation, it currently consists of a visitor center, memorial garden and his grave site. When it is fully completed, the 187-acre (0.76 km2) site will include a museum and conference center to explore and share Chavez's work.[103]

On September 14, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Interior added the 187 acres (76 ha) Nuestra Senora Reina de La Paz ranch to the National Register of Historic Places.[133]

On October 8, 2012, President Barack Obama designated the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument within the National Park system.[134]

California State University San Marcos's Chavez Plaza includes a statue to Chavez. In 2007, The University of Texas at Austin unveiled its own Cesar Chavez statue[135] on campus.

The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 authorized the National Park Service to conduct a special resource study of sites that are significant to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement in the western United States; the study evaluated the significance and suitability of sites significant to Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement, and the feasibility and appropriateness of a National Park Service role in the management of any of these sites.[136]

Cesar Chavez Day

Cesar Chavez Day poster.

Cesar Chavez's birthday, March 31, is a state holiday in California,[137] Colorado, and Texas.[citation needed] It is intended to promote community service in honor of Chavez's life and work. Many, but not all, state government offices, community colleges, and libraries are closed. Many public schools in the three states are also closed. Chavez Day is an optional holiday in Arizona. Although it is not a federal holiday, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 31 "Cesar Chavez Day" in the United States, with Americans being urged to "observe this day with appropriate service, community, and educational programs to honor César Chávez's enduring legacy".[138]

Other commemorations

The heavily Hispanic city of Laredo, Texas, observes "Cesar Chavez Month" during March. Organized by the local League of United Latin American Citizens, a citizens' march is held in downtown Laredo on the last Saturday morning of March to commemorate Chavez. Among those attending are local politicians and students.[139]

In the Mission District, San Francisco a "Cesar Chavez Holiday Parade" is held on the second weekend of April, in honor of Cesar Chavez; the parade includes traditional Native American dances, union visibility, local music groups, and stalls selling Latino products.[140]

In popular culture

Chavez was referenced by Stevie Wonder in the song "Black Man" from the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life.[141]

He is referenced in the 1998 American crime drama, American History X.

The 2014 American film César Chávez, starring Michael Peña as Chavez, covered Chavez's life in the 1960s and early 1970s;[142] that same year, a documentary film, titled Cesar's Last Fast, was released.

See also


  1. ^ Elizabeth Jacobs (2006). Mexican American Literature: The Politics of Identity. Routledge. p. 13.
  2. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 2; Pawel 2014, pp. 8, 10.
  3. ^ a b c Pawel 2014, p. 8.
  4. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 2; Pawel 2014, p. 8.
  5. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 2; Pawel 2014, p. 10.
  6. ^ Pawel 2014, pp. 9–10.
  7. ^ a b Pawel 2014, p. 10.
  8. ^ Pawel 2014, pp. 8, 9.
  9. ^ Pawel 2014, p. 11.
  10. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 6; Pawel 2014, p. 7.
  11. ^ Bruns 2005, pp. 2–3; Pawel 2014, p. 8.
  12. ^ Pawel 2014, pp. 10–11.
  13. ^ Pawel 2014, p. 19.
  14. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 2.
  15. ^ Quinones, Sam (July 28, 2011). "Richard Chavez dies at 81; brother of Cesar Chavez". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
  16. ^ Pawel 2014, p. 12.
  17. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 4; Pawel 2014, pp. 13–14.
  18. ^ Pawel 2014, pp. 13–14.
  19. ^ a b Bruns 2005, p. 3.
  20. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 4; Pawel 2014, p. 16.
  21. ^ a b Pawel 2014, p. 16.
  22. ^ Bruns 2005, pp. 4–5; Pawel 2014, p. 16.
  23. ^ a b Pawel 2014, p. 17.
  24. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 7.
  25. ^ a b c "The Story of Cesar Chavez". United Farm Workers. Archived from the original on March 5, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
  26. ^ a b Pawel 2014, p. 20.
  27. ^ Bruns 2005, p. 9; Pawel 2014, p. 20.
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Further reading

  • Bardacke, Frank. Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. New York and London: Verso 2011. ISBN 978-1-84467-718-4 (hbk.)
  • Bardacke, Frank. "Cesar's Ghost: Decline and Fall of the U.F.W.", The Nation (July 26, 1993) online version[dead link]
  • Bruns, Roger. Cesar Chavez: A Biography (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Burt, Kenneth C. The Search for a Civic Voice: California Latino Politics (2007).
  • Dalton, Frederick John. The Moral Vision of Cesar Chavez (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Daniel, Cletus E. "Cesar Chavez and the Unionization of California Farm Workers." ed. Dubofsky, Melvyn and Warren Van Tine. Labor Leaders in America. University of IL: 1987.
  • Etulain, Richard W. Cesar Chavez: A Brief Biography with Documents (2002), 138pp; by a leading historian. excerpt and text search
  • Ferriss, Susan, and Ricardo Sandoval, eds. The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement (1998) excerpt and text search
  • Griswold del Castillo, Richard, and Richard A. Garcia. Cesar Chavez: A Triumph of Spirit (1995). (Highly favorable treatment.)
  • Hammerback, John C., and Richard J. Jensen. The Rhetorical Career of Cesar Chavez. (1998).
  • Jacob, Amanda Cesar Chavez Dominates Face Sayville: Mandy Publishers, 2005.
  • Jensen, Richard J., Thomas R. Burkholder, and John C. Hammerback. "Martyrs for a Just Cause: The Eulogies of Cesar Chavez", Western Journal of Communication, Vol. 67, 2003. online edition
  • Johnson, Andrea Shan. "Mixed Up in the Making: Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and the Images of Their Movements". Ph.D dissertation U. of Missouri, Columbia 2006. 503 pp. DAI 2007 67(11): 4312-A. DA3242742. Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses.
  • LaBotz, Dan. Cesar Chavez and La Causa (2005), a short scholarly biography.
  • León, Luis D. "Cesar Chavez in American Religious Politics: Mapping the New Global Spiritual Line." American Quarterly 2007 59(3): 857–881. ISSN 0003-0678. Fulltext: Project Muse.
  • Levy, Jacques E. and Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa. (1975). ISBN 0-393-07494-3.
  • Matthiessen, Peter. Sal Si Puedes (Escape If You Can): Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution, (2nd ed. 2000) excerpt and text search[dead link]
  • Meister, Dick and Anne Loftis. A Long Time Coming: The Struggle to Unionize America's Farm Workers, (1977).
  • Orosco, Jose-Antonio. Cesar Chavez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence (2008).
  • Prouty, Marco G. Cesar Chavez, the Catholic Bishops, and the Farmworkers' Struggle for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press; 185 pages; 2006). Analyzes the church's changing role from mediator to Chavez supporter in the farmworkers' strike that polarized central California's Catholic community from 1965 to 1970; draws on previously untapped archives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Ross, Fred. Conquering Goliath : Cesar Chavez at the Beginning. Keene, California: United Farm Workers: Distributed by El Taller Grafico, 1989. ISBN 0-9625298-0-X.
  • Soto, Gary. Cesar Chavez: a Hero for Everyone. New York: Aladdin, 2003. ISBN 0-689-85923-6 and ISBN 0-689-85922-8 (pbk.)
  • Taylor, Ronald B. Chavez and the Farm Workers (1975) online edition

External links