Who is the character that occupies a bust since January 20, 2021, in a privileged place of the Oval Office of the White House, in the United States, where the Catholic president Joe Biden has dispatched?
That bust is of César Chávez (1927-1993), a Mexican-American Catholic trade unionist who, since the 1960s, led the fight to improve the living conditions of farm workers, mainly in California.
The model trade unionist in defense of the rights and freedoms of immigrants is undoubtedly César Chávez, son of Mexican immigrants, from Chihuahua. Cesáreo Estrada Chávez was born near Yuma, Arizona, on March 31, 1927.
Chávez’s childhood was like most Mexican families who live in the United States, speaking Spanish at home and later with problems in schools for not mastering the English language well, thus spending his youthful years.
In 1937 his parents are dispossessed of their lands and they become migrant workers.
Despite not turning out to be a good student at school, Chávez became interested in reading and became a good reader of books, especially Biographies of Gandhi and San Francisco de Asís.
In 1944 he entered the military service, at the age of 17, where he was educated in the discipline. He married Helen Fabela in 1948.
The people who had the greatest influence on his social formation were Father McDonnell, and Fred Ross.
César Chávez began his social training as a defender of civil rights in the Community Service Organization (CSO), founded in Los Angeles in 1947 by Antonio Ríos, Edward Roybal and Fred Ross.
In that association, he organized, for 10 years, groups of Latino workers, in various cities of California, such as voter registration, the defense of citizens against the abuses of the police and the improvement of living and working conditions of Mexicans in the slums.
In 1962 he resigned from the CSO, went to live in Delano, a farming town near Bakersfield, and founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA).
In California, United States, César Chávez founded, on September 30, 1962, the National Association of Agricultural Workers, to organize migrant workers from Mexico who work on agricultural farms in the northern United States. Dolores Huerta was one of the first militants of that peasant movement.
This organization is better known as “La Causa.”
Yes you can!
The awakening of a growing awareness that “Yes, we can” that became Chávez’s motto, make a change through the organized struggle of the workers.
From the beginning of the organization Chávez organized the migrant peasants under the system of active non-violence, he had known very well the methods of Martin Luther King, the leader of the American blacks, but he was also a faithful follower of San Francisco of Assisi, which made him live with detachment from material values, and in all his activities he was accompanied by a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico and Latin America.
In the northern part of the United States, a peasant leader of Mexican origin named Cesar Chávez had emerged, who mobilized workers of Mexican origin who worked in that region, carried out several strikes and created a movement called “La Causa”.
The living and working conditions of Mexican immigrants in that area were appalling. He, with a group of collaborators, had formed in 1962 the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), and claimed the same rights that industrial workers had, in legal matters, to improve workers’ conditions. peasants who work seasonally.
This movement also created a cultural expression, founded by Luís Valdez, the “Teatro Campesino”, which served to raise awareness, using active non-violence.
In 1965, the grape growers’ strike began and in 1970 a great boycott against the consumption of grapes took place and the first contracts of the peasants were won.
The immigrants from that region were mostly Mexican and undocumented, they worked for the large agricultural industries of the richest state in the United States.
Chávez understood his vocation at the service of the working class, especially immigrants, many of whom did not even have the right to vote freely, who could not complain, who lived in fear of being deported, and who were forced to endure subhuman conditions. of work, health and housing.
In 1970, the UFW Union, headed by César Chávez, got the grape growers to agree to sign a collective contract with the union, thus beginning the empowerment and expansion of its members, almost all of them Mexican immigrants living in the United States.
The Association of Farm Workers -UFW, led by Cesar Chávez, got grape farmers to accept contracts with the Union.
The method of struggle led by Chávez included active nonviolence, thus they made a general strike in Delano, in 1966 they marched 340 miles from Delano to Sacramento. The protesters carried signs that read: Viva la Huelga, VIVA LA CAUSA, Yes you can.
The fasts that the leader did with his militants drew attention.
In 1968 Chávez fasted for 25 days, consuming only water.
“A fast is first and foremost something personal. It is a fast for the purification of my own body, my mind and my soul.
Fasting is also a sincere prayer for the purification and strengthening of all those who work alongside me in the peasant movement.
Fasting is also an act of penance for those in a position of moral authority and for all activists, men and women, who know what is right and just, who know that they could and should do more …
I pray to God that this fast is a preparation for a multitude of simple facts for Social Justice, carried out by men and women whose hopes are focused on the hearts, on the suffering of the poor, who yearn like us, a better world, so that things are possible “
In 1972 Cesar Chávez, the peasant leader of the United States, founder of “La Causa”, did another 24-day fast:
“Peasant workers everywhere are angry and worried that they cannot win without violence. Before we have tested tenacity, hard work, faith and willingness to sacrifice.
We can earn and maintain respect for ourselves, and build a great Union that guarantees the spirit of all people if we dedicate and re-commit ourselves in the fight for justice through non-violence. “
Yes you can!
In March 1977, César Chávez, representing the Farm Workers Association (UFW), signed a five-year pact with the United States Truckers Union (TEAMSTERS), which paralyzed the internal war between those two. trade unions, one violent, like the “teamsters”, and another using the methods of active non-violence.
The Federation of Truckers (TEAMSTERS) attacked the “Chicano” workers violently and at gunpoint, several times. They beat up several leaders of the Farm Workers Association, because they wanted to have control of all agricultural transportation in California. That is the same union as James Hoffa, who recently disenrolled from the AFL-CIO.
In 1979 the UFW boycott of Bruce Church, Inc.’s “Red Coach” lettuce in Michigan began.
On August 21, 1988, César Chávez completed a 36-day fast, demanding better living and working conditions for Mexican migrant workers living in the northern United States.
Along with Chávez were: Reverend Jesse Jackson, actors Martin Sheen, Danny Glover, Emilio Estévez, Whoopi Golberg and other personalities, who supported the non-violent protests of Cesar Chávez and the members of “La Causa.” Yes you can!,
From the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, the flow of Latin American immigrants to the United States, especially California, continued to increase. Those from Mexico were joined by hundreds of thousands of Central Americans fleeing civil wars and chaos in their respective countries.
The new immigrants did not go to the countryside, but settled in the big cities of the Golden State, in the greater Los Angeles area, where many manufacturing and service industries welcomed them to exploit them.
The unions, almost all members of the AFL-CIO had lost their membership in the last two decades, were bewildered by this new generation of Spanish-speaking workers who were growing in number. They were forced to promote Latino union leaders who spoke the same language as immigrants and understood their culture, from then on almost all North American Professional Federations, unions and locals have leaders of Latin origin, who speak Spanish, and many fight legalization of the undocumented.
The pressure from the unions has managed to persuade several congressmen, and even the White House, to introduce bills to regularize the legal situation of immigrant workers.
In 1990, the leader signed an agreement with the Mexican government so that the families of the campesinos in the United States had medical benefits. One of the greatest virtues of this leader was his humility, the Chávez family, who numbered 10, lived in a wooden hut with two rooms and one bathroom.
In April 1993, César Chávez was defending a group of farmers who had been accused by the company Bruce Church Inc., producers of lettuce and vegetables, who demanded that the farmers pay millions of dollars in damages for a boycott that the union had carried out in 1980.
On April 23, 1993, the peasant leader Cesar Chávez, organizer of “La Causa”, the Peasant Workers Association, died in Yuma, Arizona, United States, an example of a union militant, of humility, who used active non-violence as a method of struggle to defend migrant Mexican peasants in the United States.
50,000 peasants, workers and friends went to the UFW offices to fire the charismatic peasant leader, who was buried in a pine coffin, this is how this prophet of the peasants was buried.
In April 1994, the first anniversary of the death of the union’s founder, Arturo Rodríguez, the new President of the Union, led a new 343-mile march from Delano to Sacramento, making a pilgrimage that reviewed the steps of the historic route made by Chávez in 1966.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton presents the United States Medal of Freedom to his widow, Hellen Chávez, and several then on September 2, 1994, March 31 is designated as a California state holiday.
At the end of March 2004, the birth of the man was commemorated in California whose slogans of non-violence, social justice and education seem to continue in force and was ratified by more than two thousand people during the Sixth Annual March César E. Chávez, late founder of the powerful Union of Farm Workers (UFW). The Aztec black eagle – a motive for inspiration in the struggle of César Chávez – flew among the red and black flags of the UFW, along with banners of the Virgin Mary. Both were symbols of pride and dignity for him and his Mexican roots.
A promoter of education and non-violent tactics that included boycotts, strikers’ pickets and work stoppages of grape workers in Delano, César Chávez’s fasts and hunger strikes brought national attention to the inhumane conditions in which peasants worked. in the country, as well as his epic 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento in 1966.
“You have to remind them that we did not cross the border, but that the border crossed us.” Dolores Huerta.