March 31st is Cesar Chavez’s birthday and Cesar Chavez day across the United States. We’ve all learned about him in school, we’ve all heard of him, but why is he such an important figure in Mexican-American and American history?
Cesar Chavez was Mexican-American, born in Yuma, AZ, 92 years ago. He was not only an advocate for Mexicans but for all Latinos’ civil rights and an activist who worked towards better farm labor laws.
He spent years with CSO, the Community Service Organization, which was a very prominent Latino civil rights group. He led campaigns against racial and economic discrimination, coordinated voter registration for Latinos, and worked towards creating a union that served farm workers.
Seeing firsthand how badly the farm workers in California were treated, he created the National Farm Workers Association with only 10 people – himself, his wife, and his 8 kids.
This association was eventually successful in becoming the United Farm Workers of America, the first successful union for farm workers in history.
Although in his lifetime he had the opportunity to leave poverty and was even offered the job to be head of the Peace Corps for Latin America, he chose to continue being an activist for the benefit of others and lived a life of self-imposed poverty.
Some of his accolades include but are not limited to:
- Creating the first credit union for farm workers
- Health clinics
- Daycare centers
- job training programs
Cesar Chavez always pledged to achieve his goals with nonviolent strategies and tactics. He fasted for days on end, even when others grew frustrated during the slow progress of strikes.
Although his achievements seemed to only affect farmworkers and their families, his fight for fair treatment and healthier means of growing produce was safer for everyone who consumed these products as well. He wasn’t just fighting for the rights of Latinos and farmworkers, but for human rights and fair treatment. “Equality, justice, and dignity for all Americans.”
Cesar Chavez is responsible for giving us the now famous phrase used by all Latinos… SI SE PUEDE, inspiring us all to never give up.