On March 31st, we celebrate the legacy of César E. Chávez, considered the greatest Mexican-American leader of our, or any, time in the United States. The term “Si Se Puede” cannot be uttered without the specter of Chávez looming over the words.
The history of Chávez is that of a young farm work-er who experienced the atrocities of working in the fields of the Southwest and found a way to fight for justice through unionization to bring about change for the farm workers. It was through his sheer will, courage, knowledge, dedication, charisma and commitment to non-violence that made him the leader and hero to the Mexican-American community and to countless others who joined him to fight for better working conditions and a fair wages. Perhaps his greatest union victory would be his ability to bring the grape industry to the bargaining table after a five year boycott.
Chávez’ leadership would transcend the farm workers as he became a symbol for the Chicano movement, for self determination and for civil and human rights. César Chávez was able to bring together people from all walks of life from farm workers to the rich, from grassroots organizers to the nation’s political leadership. He was able to bring together hundreds of thousands of marchers and march from Delano to Sacramento, a trek of 340-miles, to create change for the grape pickers. Or he would sit alone and fast, following the example of Mohatma Gandhi, and draw people from across the nation to his side in support, including Senator Robert Kennedy.
César Chávez was able to elevate the whole Mexican-American community. He instilled pride and the knowledge that by working together, we can indeed create change.
Today’s Hispanic community strives to live up to the legacy of César Chávez. Since his death on April 23, 1993, the Hispanic community has yet to show the unity and political will that Chávez was able to bring together. Today, we celebrate the legacy of César Chávez as we work to find, once again, that unity and knowledge in working together to create change for the betterment of the whole Hispanic community.
Si Se Puede!