Things That Matter

César Chávez Changed The Way Our Country Treats Immigrant Farm Workers But There’s Still A Lot Of Work To Be Done

If you are a Latino living in the United States, you’ve probably heard the name César Chávez. He was one of the first freedom fighters that advocated for the rights of farm workers, many of which had Mexican heritage. César Chávez is an icon of Chicano identity and still a source of inspiration for civil rights advocates and for those who use reason to fight injustice. 

Here are 21 facts about one of the most amazing Latino community leaders of all time.

He was born in Yuma, Arizona.

Credit: 83c2446a0896df0a1f4af01c940ae1d9_XL. Digital image. Moab Valley Multicultural Arts Center

His full birth name is César Estrada Chávez (yes, he took on his mom’s last name) and he was born on March 31, 1927. 

He had five siblings and grew up in an adobe house.

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César Chávez knew what it was to live precariously from a very early age. His family owned a ranch, but they lost the land during the Great Depression. They also lost the family home and so.

His parents moved the family from Arizona to California in search of work like many families.

Credit: 7700813622_249e829e8c_o-1024×768. Digital image. PBS

César Chávez’s parents, Juana Estrada and Librado Chávez were forced to move to California, where they became migrant farm workers. They faced many tribulations picking peas, lettuce, cherries, grapes, and beans. 

César Chávez became a farm worker, and thus his life as an activist began.

When he was a teenager he found the great solidarity that he showed for his whole life. He and is sister volunteered to drive fellow farmers to the doctor when they needed to be looked after. He soon discovered that things are better achieved when community members help each other. 

He dropped out of school in seventh grade.

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Young César Chávez couldn’t go to school while his mother worked the fields, so he left his formal education and became a full-time farmer.

He worked on farms until he joined the United States Navy in 1942.

Credit: Cesar_Chavez_Mural_-_East_Side. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons

The experience was quite negative. César Chávez had hoped to translate the skills he learned in the military to his civil life. He served for two years only during World War II.

1952: an activist and pop culture star was born.

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César Chávez worked en el campo non-stop until 1952 when he became an organizer for the Community Service Organization, a group that looked after Latino rights. In this role he met Fred Ross, an experienced community organizer and the rest, as they say, is history. He urged voters to work and protested industry malpractices.

He founded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta.

Credit: cesar-chavez-and-dolores-huerta-mural-utah-gary-whitton. Digital image. Fine Art America

Just 10 years after starting his activist efforts, César Chávez founded the NFWA with fellow Mexican-American activist Dolores Huerta. This dynamic duo revolutionized farmers’ conditions in the United States and started an era of non-violent protest against powerful corporations and government wrongdoings.

With Dolores Huerta by his side, he led a historic strike in the grape industry.

Credit: Cesar-Chavez-Mural-in-South-Austin. Digital image. Austin Texas

The year was 1965 and the conditions were ripe for a great leap in the workers’ rights movement. With Huerta, César Chávez organized a consumer boycott against Californian grapes until labor conditions were improved for grape pickers. The strike made the national headlines and even Robert F. Kennedy supported the movement.

In 1966 the lucha expanded to Texas and farm owners were terrified.

Credit: cesar-chavez-portrait-mural. Digital image. Downtown Fresno Partnership

César Chávez is mostly known for his activism in California, but his legacy has impacted the whole country. In 1966 similar movements started in Texas and the Midwest, where César Chávez’s legacy led to the formation of unions such as Obreros Unidos in Wisconsin and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in Ohio.

César Chávez and United Farm Workers organized the largest strike in U.S. history with results.

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Known as the Salad Bowl Strike, it happened in the early 1970s and consisted in a series of strikes and boycotts demanding higher wages for grape and lettuce workers. In order to support the strike, César Chávez fasted as a form of non-violent demonstration.

He was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi.

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After that, César Chávez used fasting as a form of protest. He fasted, for example, when Arizona prohibited boycotts and strikes by farm workers. He was inspired by Catholic doctrine and by the non-violent forms of resistance made popular by Gandhi when resisting British rule in India.

He was a family man.

Credit: Chavez_Monument_Cesar_Chavez_Poster.jpg. Digital image. Social and Public Arts Resource Center

When he returned from his service in the military he married his high school novia, Helen Fabela. They moved to San Jose and had eight children.

He was a vegan.

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Long before the vegan movement gathered full force, he was a vegan, both because he fought for animal rights and because he had some health issues.

He was proud to be a Roman Catholic.

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It is not common for leftist activists to follow a religion, but César Chávez was a devout Catholic. He felt that the doctrine echoed his own sense of social justice, similar to what some Liberation Theology priests in Latin America have advocated for.

He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions.

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Even though he didn’t get the accolade, the American Friends Service Committee put forward his nomination three times. The prize would have been la cereza en el pastel, but to be honest, his legacy doesn’t really need it.

He has been a part of the California Hall of Fame since 2006.

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Thirteen years after his death then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the First Lady Maria Shriver hicieron los honores.

He was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Then-president Bill Clinton presented the coveted award on September 8, 1994. César Chávez’s partner in crime, Dolores Huerta, got hers from Barack Obama. 

César Chávez Day is a state holiday in California.

Credit: SanLuisHighSchoolCesarChavezMural1000. Digital image. Azed News

Mark your calendars: March 31. It is not a federal holiday, but Barack Obama urged Americans to “observe this day with appropriate service, community, and educational programs to honor César Chávez’s enduring legacy.”

There are numerous schools, libraries, and parks named after him.

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Most of them are in California but don’t be surprised if you find one in your hometown.

He died on April 23, 1993, pero la lucha sigue!

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He died of natural causes at the house of his friend and fellow farm worker Dofia Maria Hau. He is buried at the National Chavez Center in Kern County, California, the epicenter of his now legendary struggle to reach fair conditions for the many heroes working the land.

READ: Rep. Gohmert Has Filed A Resolution To Change Cesar Chavez Day To ‘National Border Control Day’

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Things That Matter

Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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