by Katie from Minnesota
"Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak...Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win."
Cesar Chavez was an American leader for the Latino farmworkers in California in the 1960's. More than that, however, he is a hero who worked for the dignity of all human beings and their basic rights including the dignity of work.
Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona on March 31, 1927, he was the second of five children. Cesar learned many important lessons in his growing up years. He learned from the suffering and struggling in hard times, and he learned the importance of religion and compassion from his mother Juana. After losing their land during the depression the Chavez family began the difficult life of migrant farmworkers in California. They spent nights sleeping on the side of the roads and during this time Cesar attended 38 different schools. After 8th grade he dropped out and began helping in the fields.
In 1948 Cesar married Helen Favela who became the mother of his seven children and a strong partner in his movement. In 1952 Cesar became a part of the Community Service Organization (CSO) and eventually became a leader in this group which helped battle racial and ethnic discrimination, helped people with immigration and tax problems, and coordinated voting drives and such. Shortly after the CSO had declined permission for Cesar to organize farmworkers he resigned and started the National Farmworkers Association (NFWA).
Led by Cesar, the NFWA, in 1965, began to lead strikes against the grape field owners. These peaceful protests would go on for five years. When the striking alone wasn't working, Cesar and the NFWA caught the attention of America by marching 250 miles from Delano CA, to San Fransisco. A march that started with less than 100 people in Delano ended thousands strong in San Fransisco. Still only one grower signed an agreement. 1967 began with the national Grape Boycott. NFWA leaders were sent all over the country to lead local boycotts at grocery stores nationwide. These boycotts lasted until 1970 and amount of Americans involved totaled over 13 million people.
In 1968 when the people of the NFWA were getting frustrated and contemplating resorting to violence, Cesar Chavez led by example and fasted for 25 days as a prayer for peace and non-violence. This fast was ended with a public Mass. In 1970 the Delano Growers and the United Farmworkers signed a contract and in 1975 the state of California passed the Agriculture Relations Act which was the first of its kind in the United States and gave the farmworkers more rights including formal unions.
Cesar Chavez was more than just a political leader, he was a strong individual motivated by his faith and the belief that all people have dignity given by God. Cesar was inspired by the non-violence actions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Page created on 11/19/2008 12:00:00 AM
Last edited 11/19/2008 12:00:00 AM
The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.
Tejada-Flores, Rick. "Cesar Chavez." [Online] Available www.pbs.org/itvs/fightfields/cesarchavez.com. 2004.
Teaching Tolerance. "Trilogy of Non-Violent Movements." Viva la Causa.
UCLA. "Quotes by Cesar Chavez." [Online] Available http://clnet.ucla.edu/research/chavez/quotes/nonvio.htm.
not listed. "Cesar Chavez Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom & the Anguila Azteca." University of CA.