By Jan Jennings
March 2006 marks the 40th anniversary of César Chávez’s historic 340-mile pilgrimage from his home in Delano, Calif., to the steps of the state capitol in Sacramento to draw national attention to the struggles and conditions of farm workers. Chávez would have celebrated his 79th birthday March 31.
The life and accomplishments of Chávez, labor leader and champion of human rights, will be observed with a monthlong series of diverse activities beginning April 6 and continuing through May 10 at UCSD. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.
During Chávez’s 1966 pilgrimage/march and after a four-month boycott, growers negotiated an agreement with National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), which was the first genuine union contract between a grower and farm workers in U.S. history. That summer, the NFWA and the Filipino American members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) merged to form the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO (UFW).
The principal figure in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, Chávez was a leader in the struggle for working families and an advocate for non-violent solutions and dignity and respect for all. He died in 1993. The essence of his legacy will be the focus of a kickoff luncheon at UCSD honoring activist Herman Baca and a discussion on border health issues, and later plays, performances, films, a cultural celebration, and a youth essay contest.
The annual César E. Chávez Celebration Kickoff Luncheon will begin at noon April 6 at the International Center and will feature comments by Chancellor Marye Anne Fox and an award presentation to activist Herman Baca, who worked closely with Chávez, as well as other Chicano leaders including Bert Corona and Reies Tijerina.
Baca’s organization, Committee on Chicano Rights, has been a strong community presence in National City since the 1970s. The UCSD Mandeville Special Collections Library has recently acquired Baca’s Chicano Civil Rights archive which is now available for research by scholars and students of Mexican American social movements.
Also on April 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Jack Farris Student Lounge at the School of Medicine, a discussion on Border Health Issues and Physician Training will be led by Dr. Marianne McKennett, program director, Scripps Family Medicine Residency and UCSD clinical professor of Family and Preventive Medicine. Residency graduates will participate. Discussion will focus on experiences working with underserved populations.
On April 10, the UCSD student Chicano organization, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), and the UCSD student Pilipino organization, Kaibigang Pilipino (KP), will present Los Vendidos, a one-act play by El Teatro Campesino, the cultural arm of Chávez’s United Farm Workers union. Los Vendidos tells the story of how young Mexican Americans face the pressure of assimilation and cultural loss.
Following the 5 p.m. performance, there will be a discussion on historical coalitions of Mexican and Pilipino farm workers led by Anthony Valladolid, interim director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs, and Nancy Magpusao, programmer/fiscal coordinator for the Cross Cultural Center.
The Los Angeles-based performance group, Chicano Secret Service, will present their new satire, Preemptive Strike (On the Barrio Streets of your Mind), at 7 p.m. April 12 in the Visual Arts Building Performance Space.
Using spoken word, parody, and sketch comedy, the group addresses the news of the day and the situation for Latinos at the beginning of the 21st Century. The Los Angeles Times calls the satire “edgy, topical. A must see.”
Two UCSD students will be presented scholarships from the UCSD Chicano/Latino Alumni Association at 7 p.m. April 26 in the Price Center Theatre, followed by the performance of Heroes and Legends by Teatro de la Tierra.
Sponsored by the Helen Edison Lecture Series at UCSD, Heroes and Legends will be performed by Agustín Lira, a founding member of the Teatro Campesino, and Pat-ricia Wells Solorzano. Through music and poetry, the performers evoke memories of leading figures in Mexican American and Mexican history who have fought for social justice. In addition to Chávez, these include revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, union activist Emma Tenayuca, and civil rights leader Rodolfo Corky Gonzales.
The just released HBO film, Walkout, will be screened at 7 p.m. May 10 in Center Hall, Room 105. Directed by Edward James Almos, “Walkout” tells the story of Chicano/Chicana students in Los Angeles during the late 1960s who led a movement for school reform and improved educational opportunities. High school teacher Sal Castro, who supported the students and risked his career on their behalf, will participate in a discussion and question/answer period following the screening.
Other activities in the month-long salute to César E. Chávez include:
The 8th annual César E. Chávez Commemoration Community Breakfast, 7:30 a.m., March 27, San Diego Convention Center. The event will honor high school essay contest winners from San Diego, Imperial, and Orange counties.
The 28th annual Thurgood Marshall College Cultural Celebration will be featured at the college all day, April 8, and will include music, dance, food and art from around the world.
The Lives of Mexican Immigrants in Silicon Valley, a presentation by Christian Zlolniski, assistant professor in anthropology and in the Center for Mexican American Studies, University of Texas, Arlington, 3 p.m. April 18, Cross-Cultural Center. Zlol-niski is the author of Janitors, Street Vendors, and Activists (2006), a study of Mexican immigrants employed in Silicon Valley’s low-wage jobs.
Tijuana Jews, a documentary film exploring a community that blended Jewish and Mexican cultures, 6:30 p.m. May 3, Copley Auditorium, Institute of the Americas. Film director Isaac Artenstein, UCSD visiting professor in Visual Arts, will be available for comment.