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Cesar Chavez - a voice for those who needed one

March 17, 2009

"There are many reasons for why a man does what he does. To be himself he must be able to give it all. If a leader cannot give it all he cannot expect his people to give anything." - Cesar Chavez

His beginning

Cesar Estrada Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Ariz. He was a Mexican-American labor activist and the leading voice for many migrant farm workers, those who moved from place to place to find work. Chavez focused his efforts and brought national attention to the terrible working conditions of farm workers which lead to many improvements.

Chavez founded the United Farm Workers of America in 1962. The organization is the nation’s largest farm workers union under the vision of providing “farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society's bounty.”

Early injustice

Chavez experienced injustice at a young age when his father was swindled out of 40 acres of land promised to him in exchange for his labor. A lawyer had advised Chavez’s father to borrow money and buy the land but sold the land to the original owner when Chavez’s father could not pay the interest on the loan.

“The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature,” Chavez said later in life.

Culture clash

In 1939, Chavez and his family settled in California and worked in numerous fields across the state. They lived in a district called Sal Si Puedes, which translates to “get out if you can.” Cesar spoke only Spanish at home while his teachers only spoke English and forbid the use of Spanish – a rule Chavez violated often.

Life's hardships

After graduating from the eighth grade, Chavez’s father was involved in an accident. Not wanting his mother to work in the fields, Chavez quit school and became a migrant farm worker. During his lifetime, Chavez never earned more than $5,000 a year.

Brief timeline:

  • 1944: Chavez joined the Navy at the age of 17.
  • 1948: Chavez was wed to Helen Fabela and had eight children together.
  • 1962: Founded the National Farm Workers Association, later named United Farm Workers of America.


Wanting people to be aware of the struggles of farm workers for better pay and safer working conditions, Chavez organized nonviolent strategies that included fasting, boycotts, a 340-mile march, and the famous 1965 Delano grape strike. The strike had 2,000 grape growers walking off farms and demanding wages that equal the federal minimum wage. By 1970, the union succeeded in reaching an agreement with the grape growers, which had an effect on nearly 10,000 farm workers.

Labor leader for the history books

Chavez passed away on April 23, 1993 at the age of 66, a short distance from where his life began. His funeral was the largest gathering for a labor leader in U.S. history. More than 50,000 people came to mourn at the site of Chavez’s first public fast, the United Farm Workers Delano Field Office at "Forty Acres." 

Join us for the Cesar Chavez 2009 celebrations.

Tuesday March 24

Community Celebration
6-8 p.m., LSC Main Ballroom
Join us for entertainment, free food, reflections on the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez and the Annual Cesar Chavez High School Awards.
*Spanish translation available on a limited basis.

Wednesday March 25

Film screening: “Bread and Roses”
Followed by facilitated discussion
7 p.m., DC Bottoms in Durrell Center
A dramatic story about a Mexican immigrant named Maya who arrives in Los Angeles and gets a job as a janitor in a large office building. After helping a man evade the building's security guards, Maya is drawn into the man's world, planting seeds of unionization among her co-workers.

Monday March 30

La Lucha Sigue: Cesar Chavez, Current Issues, and Social Justice
12 p.m., LSC Senate Chambers
Presenter: Norberto Valdez, Ethnic Studies
Join us for a discussion about the legacy of Cesar Chavez, Delores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers of America, and learn lessons for contemporary struggles for social justice and human dignity. 

Tuesday March 31

Su Teatro performs: Papi, Me and Cesar Chavez
7 p.m., LSC Student Theater
A live performance by Su Teatro that chronicles the United Farm Workers of America, historic march from Delano, Calif. to the state capitol in Sacramento, as seen through the eyes of 10-year-old Gloria, the writer.
*Spanish translation available on a limited basis.

For more information on the events, contact Lance Wright at (970) 491-6921 or e-mail

Contact: Anh Ha
Phone: (970) 491-4161