Sunday, April 21, 2024

Celebrating Chávez’s Legacy


Today would have been the 82nd birthday of labor and civil rights leader, Cesar Chávez.  Born into humble circumstances, he brought the plight of farm workers, who are some of the nation’s most downtrodden and helpless, into the national spotlight.  With his founding of the United Farm Workers (UFW), he gave a voice to those who toil to bring food to our tables often under harsh conditions.

His efforts benefited not just those in the fields, but all who care about justice and equality.  With his embrace of non-violence and civil disobedience, Latinos were propelled into the larger civil rights movement, and an entire generation was galvanized into action to address the myriad of concerns that face our community from education to environmental justice.  His legacy lives on today in many of the nation’s Latino leaders who were inspired by Chávez’s life.

Chávez Day is a an official celebration in 8 states, Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.  Countless other towns, cities, school districts and counties also hold commemorations in some form.

Beginning a week of events to remember the civil rights leader’s life, Dolores Huerta, who helped found UFW with Chávez, spoke about the labor movement at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.  Huerta, said that one of the things to learn from Chávez’s legacy was to always maintain faith, and that despite obstacles “he just kept going forward.”

His son, Paul Chávez, said, “when farmworkers fight to improve their lives, his legacy is honored” and that “when hospital workers, hotel workers and factory workers fight to improve their lives, his legacy is honored.”

Chávez continued saying that his father knew, “that his work wouldn’t be finished in his life. You always have to look for ways to inspire future generations of folks because the work won’t be finished.”

Today, the White House as well as Congressional leadership issued statements memorializing the late leader’s accomplishments.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “The impact of Cesar Chávez’s work is so deep, it reaches beyond the Latino community. All American workers benefit directly or indirectly from his dedication and progressive views.”

An example of Chávez’s ongoing legacy is evidenced by last year’s historic presidential election, when then candidate Barack Obama embraced a paraphrase of the UFW’s often heard chant and made it part of the American lexicon- Sí Se Puede – Yes We Can! 

Chávez died in 1993 at the age of 66.

LA Times

Reid Statement

White House statement

Pelosi statement