Cesar Chavez is a name with which most people are familiar. While many know that he was an icon of some kind, and others know that he fought for the rights of others facing great adversity, a lot of people aren’t really sure exactly what he accomplished in his life.
In 2014, President Obama declared a federal commemorative holiday be celebrated on March 31st of each year, to honor the legacy of the labor movement activist and civil rights leader.
At the Feisty Bull, we know that understanding Hispanic heritage is part of the greater whole of understanding our nation’s diversity.
Born in Yuma, Arizona on March 31, 1927 to parents Juana Estrada and Librado Chavez, Cesar Chavez was one of six children in the family. Named after his grandfather, Cesario, Chavez grew up in a relatively small adobe home.
While Chavez grew up poor, it is important to note that his family had once owned a ranch and grocery store in the area, but it was lost during the Great Depression. Many people have wondered if this initial tragedy is what spurred Chavez to take up his important causes later on in life.
The fact is that most people believe Chavez took up his work because his father exchanged clearing 80 acres of land for the deed to the house. This agreement was later revoked, and Chavez, unable to pay the interest to get the house, was forced to move his family to California where they worked as migrant laborers.
After Chavez and his family moved to California, they faced many hardships that would shape Cesar Chavez. Mostly, the family spent time picking lettuce, peas, corn, grapes and cotton in the summer months.
As Chavez got older, he dropped out of school so his mother wouldn’t have to work in the fields. With just a seventh grade education, he eventually took on new responsibilities of driving farmers and workers in the area to the hospital when they were unable to drive themselves.
At the age of 16, Cesar Chavez joined the United States Navy. Though Chavez claims he learned skills that would help him later, he also described his time in the Navy as the two worst years of his life.
Chavez’s most important work occurred when he became an organizer for the Community Service Organization (CSO) after having worked in the fields until 1952.
Working as part of the civil rights group, CSO, Chavez traveled the country helping Mexican-Americans to vote and make their power felt in the political arena. Chavez also gave speeches throughout the Southwest, and in 1958, he became the national director of CSO.
By 1962, Cesar Chavez had founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to help make migrant workers’ voices heard even more. With this new platform, Chavez was able to begin organizing boycotts of certain major farms that weren’t treating workers fairly. He continued this work through the 1960s, and held protests and boycotts around the nation where migrant workers were suffering.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Chavez continued his work, with a few minor setbacks in the process. He also adopted a philosophy of non-violence that correlated to the beliefs of other leaders like Mahatma Ghandi.
Cesar Chavez died on April 23, 1993 of natural causes. Working tirelessly for the people, Chavez passed in a rented apartment in San Luis, Arizona.
The Feisty Bull
At The Feisty Bull, we are proud to remember the accomplishments of Cesar Chavez on Cesar Chavez Day.