Things That Matter

Here’s How People Are Celebrating Cesar Chavez 25 Years After His Death

Cesar Chavez — the fierce activist for farm workers rights — died on April 23, 1993, but his legacy lives on through various celebrations on his birth month.

CREDIT: Instagram/@iam2018

In 2014, President Barak Obama declared that the Latino leader would be celebrated by the nation on the day of his birth and declared March 31 would be Cesar Chavez Day.

President Obama said: “The values Cesar Chavez lived by guide us still. As we push to fix a broken immigration system, protect the right to unionize, advance social justice for young men of color, and build ladders of opportunity for every American to climb, we recall his resilience through setbacks, his refusal to scale back his dreams. When we organize against income inequality and fight to raise the minimum wage — because no one who works full time should have to live in poverty — we draw strength from his vision and example.”

People continue to honor Chavez with marches, parades, and festivals throughout March and April.

CREDIT: Instagram/@mcant2

This year, however, at least one person tried to dismantle the country’s tribute by declaring Cesar Chavez Day be named “National Border Control Day.”

“Cesar Chavez was best known for his passionate fight to gain better working environments for thousands of workers laboring in harsh conditions on farms for low wages. He also staunchly believed in sovereignty of the United States border,” Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert said in a statement. “In fact, it was his firm belief that preventing illegal immigration was an essential prerequisite to improving the circumstances of American farmworkers; and in 1979, in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., he demanded that the federal government enforce the immigration laws and keep illegal aliens out of the country.”

And in the very state that Gohmert represents, people there paid it no mind to his senseless words, and celebrated Cesar Chavez Day in the most beautiful way.

In San Antonio, people gathered for the 22nd annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice.

CREDIT: Instagram/@eltallercitodeson

This year’s theme for the march was: “Building Bridges for Education, Non-Violence, and Social Justice.”

“We are not only here to celebrate my grandfather legacy and the legacy of Mr. Martinez who started the march, but also out here to celebrate the issues that are important to everybody,” Andres P. Chavez, grandson of the late Cesar E. Chavez, who served as grand marshal said to a local ABC news affiliate. “We are going to be chanting really loud. We are chanting the words ‘Si se puede’ because those words weren’t just the rally cry of the 1960s, but those words are alive and well today and will carry us through all of our battles against injustice to equality.”

Thousands attended the march, including Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro.

CREDIT: Instagram/@mr_peefer

“This weekend I joined #SanAntonians in the 22nd Annual Cesar E. Chavez #MarchforJustice to honor his legacy as a civil rights activist and labor leader,” Castro tweeted. “Very inspiring to see so many folks marching for great causes this weekend in #TX20.”

Here’s some more wonderful highlights from the march in San Antonio.

We love those “Si Se Puede” shirts!

Cesar Chavez was every where, even on the bus.

We hope they keep that all year-round.

So many people wearing red.

“Make Guac Free!” #cesarchavez #cesarchavezmarch #sanantonio #downtown

A post shared by M a r i o R u i z (@mars_est87) on

The red stands for “hard work and sacrifice” by immigrant workers, the United Farm Workers (UFW) state about the significance of their colors. The black eagle represents “the dark situation of the farm worker. The Aztec eagle is an historic symbol for the people of Mexico. The UFW incorporated the Aztec eagle into its design in order to show the connection the union had to migrant workers of Mexican-American descent, though not all UFW workers were Mexican-American.”

If you’d like to continue to celebrate Cesar Chavez, there’s another march on April 8.

Salinas area farm workers invite you to their Cesar Chavez march

D'Arrigo workers inviting people to their Cesar Chavez march on April 8 at 10 am / Trabajadores D'Arrigo de Brocoli invitando A la Marcha de Cesar chavez en el 8 de Abril at 10am. More/Mas @ https://www.facebook.com/events/1958802644434936/

Posted by UFW on Wednesday, March 28, 2018


READ: This Chicano Photographer Told Us Why Cesar Chavez Has Left A Lasting Impression With Latinos

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Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

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Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

Every day, California farmworkers worry that the pandemic plowing through agricultural hubs will catch them and kill them. They also worry that not working will kill them. Now, there is further evidence that their worries are grounded in reality.

A recent survey – the Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) – points out the grim reality this vulnerable community faces as they work to support the nation’s ongoing need for food services.

California’s farmworker community – now considered essential – is being hit hard by the Coronavirus.

California’s agricultural communities have been hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic. From Imperial County along the U.S.-Mexico border to Fresno County in the Central Valley, these counties are also home to large migrant communities who are considered ‘essential workers’ as they work California’s farms and ranches.

As new details emerge, a grim picture of the virus among farmworkers is emerging. The Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) reinforces the dire warnings that farmworker advocacy organizations made when the coronavirus lockdowns began: The least protected essential workers in the country, toiling under environmental conditions like excessive heat, pollution and dust, are being devastated by the coronavirus, directly and indirectly. 

Now, five months into the pandemic, infection rates are spiking. Fresno County is experiencing 435 cases for every 100,000 residents; in Tulare it’s 472 and in Merced it’s 564. The statewide average: 269.

Though county figures say about 31% of overall cases are in the Latino community, some on the front lines estimate that up to 70% of cases from the recent spike have hit in that demographic, in a region where they account for about 42% of the population, according to census figures. Experts agree that official case counts across the state may be low because of testing problems.

And experts agree that fighting Covid-19 in the Central Valley could be an uphill battle. Many farmworkers live in crowded, dorm-like buildings. And thanks to a hostile government, many migrants are fearful of seeking any sort of medical or legal or financial help. Many of the people most at risk do not speak English and are traditionally hard for government to reach. Therefore, packing plants have emerged as coronavirus clusters in parts of the state.

The state is struggling to get a hold on the outbreak but officials have launched a new program they hope will have an impact.

The recent spike in infection rates within the Central Valley has drawn national attention, and now seems to have the attention of Gov. Gavin Newsom. His administration is dispatching three of his Coronavirus ‘strike teams’ to the region to help local officials track cases of Covid-19, inspect workplaces, quarantine the sick, and ramp up testing within vulnerable groups.

Each team, consisting of about a dozen experts on health, housing, public outreach, agriculture and other fields, will try to contain an alarming spread through the region. Much of their work will focus on the San Joaquin Valley, where agricultural fields and crowded food-processing plants have become fertile ground for the virus.

“If you asked me today what our biggest area of concern in a state as large as ours, it is indeed the Central Valley,” Newsom said recently in announcing the deployment. “We need to do more for our agricultural and farmworkers.”

In addition to the strike team, the state is allocating $52 million in federal money to help improve testing and contact tracing within the valley. It’s also spending $6 million in private donations to buy food and other basics for low-income Valley residents whose livelihoods have been threatened by the pandemic.

But for many farmworkers, despite the risk, they have little choice but to continue to work.

Credit: Brent Stirton / Getty Images

California’s farmworkers have long been one of the state’s most vulnerable communities. Now that the pandemic has ravaged the state’s economy, migrant farmworkers are considered ‘essential workers’ and are exempt from many of the protective lockdown orders, forcing them to risk their health while at work.

Meanwhile, the collapse of food service (restaurants and institutions) has le to the shutdown of farms across the state and roughly 20% of farm jobs have been cut – that amounts to nearly 100,000 workers. Those who are still working have largely seen their hours cut. So for many, they have little choice but to return to a dangerous job or risk juggling bills and going hungry.

On the job, however, workers lack control of their own safety. Fewer than half of those surveyed said they had received masks from their employers. Even among those who had, they had received them once or a couple of times. (Farmworkers generally wear face coverings to protect themselves from pesticide dust, dirt and the sun. More than 95 percent of those surveyed said they are masked in the fields.) 

Social distancing is still an idea, not a reality, for many of those surveyed. In some cases, farmworkers who asked for better protections, such as more distancing in the fields, or hand sanitizer, have faced retaliation. Crew bosses have punished them by cutting their hours or days, advocates said. 

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Desperate For Work, Immigrant Workers Are Collecting The Bodies Of Covid-19 Victims

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Desperate For Work, Immigrant Workers Are Collecting The Bodies Of Covid-19 Victims

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Countries across Latin America are struggling to combat the Coronavirus pandemic. In fact, Latin America is now considered the epicenter of the global outbreak, as countries in the region are ravaged by the virus. From Brazil to Mexico, government responses have varied widely and adherence to social distancing guidelines has been difficult for communities with little in the way of a financial safety net.

Meanwhile, Latin America is still experiencing a refugee crisis as Venezuelans flee their country for better opportunities in Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and even Mexico. This has led to many migrants being forced to take less than ideal jobs as ordinary work opportunity have dried up as the economies have been hit hard by the pandemic.

In Peru, migrants are collecting bodies of those who have died from Covid-19 in order to make a living.

Despite Peru’s early action to contain the pandemic, the coronavirus has spread like wildfire through the country. More than 390,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus so far. Meanwhile, the country is a destination for Venezuelan refugees, with at least 870,000 who have ended up in Peru, working low-wage jobs to make ends meet or to send funds home to impoverished loved ones.

One of the jobs these migrants are working is to collect the bodies of those who have died from Covid-19. It’s a grim job but they earn $500 a month for their efforts, nearly double the minimum wage in Peru. They work up to 19 hours a day, seven days a week.

Most of the bodies they collect are from poor neighborhoods, from homes where people can’t afford to hire a funeral director to handle the burial. There have been more than 13,000 deaths from Covid-19, and the public health system is collapsing under the weight of the grim toll. What’s left for the poor is a death with little dignity.

At the city’s El Angel Cemetery crematorium, many of the staff handling bodies also are Venezuelans.

“The Peruvians don’t do it. It’s tough,” said Orlando Arteaga, who works seven days a week, earning the money he needs to support three children in Venezuela and a 2-year-old daughter in Lima. He told CNN he never imagined he would see so much death, but that “somebody has to do it — and we need work.”

Peru has been hit hard by the outbreak and its death toll continues to rise.

As of July 28, Peru has seen more than 390,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and there have been 18,418 deaths related to the virus. These numbers have skyrocketed in recent weeks. In fact, at the beginning of the crisis, Peru appeared as a model for other countries in the region.

Peru was praised early on in the pandemic for its swift and decisive response, buffered by an enviable fiscal cushion. But four months later, the government’s disjointed execution of its strategy has made the country a cautionary tale for how not to fight Covid-19. Early on, Peru’s government imposed a strict lockdown that is only now being eased. A few days later, a fiscal package of more than 10% of GDP was announced, including cash transfers to the poorest third of the population, credit support for businesses and, most importantly, expanded funding to the health sector.

And yet, Peru’s record on dealing with the pandemic has not only been disappointing – it is among the worst in the world.

Venezuelan refugees have been pouring out of the country looking for better opportunities and ways to support their families.

Although Venezuela hasn’t been hit hard by the Coronavirus, compared to other countries – although this is beginning to change. However, it’s experiencing an economic catastrophe that has left millions in extreme poverty.

The country has recorded almost 16,000 cases of Covid-19 and less than 150 deaths. But the country is being ravaged by fuel and electricity shortages, a near worthless currency, and political strife that has rendered much of the government useless.

Countries in the region are being dramatically affected by the fallout. Neighboring Colombia, for instance, has absorbed some 1.6 million Venezuelan refugees to date in a migration wave that is severely straining government resources and adversely impacting the national economy. Peru has experienced much the same dynamic, as — to a lesser extent — have countries like Ecuador, Brazil and Chile. That’s because eight out of ten Venezuelan refugees have remained in Latin America and the Caribbean, so local governments have been forced to bear the brunt of Venezuela’s unfolding collapse.

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