March 31 is a day to celebrate the life of the late labor and civil rights leader Cesar E. Chavez, to remember what he fought for, and to honor the legacy he left behind for others to follow.
His birthday, March 31, is now a state holiday in California, Colorado and in Texas. In these three states, schools are closed, businesses give their employees the day off, and local municipalities close their doors for the day to pay respects to all that Chavez stood for. Chavez was an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist, who with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, later known as the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) – the famous organization dedicated to improving the treatment, pay and working conditions for farm workers. His public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive nonviolent tactics made the farm workers’ struggle a moral cause that garnered national support.
After his death, Cesar E. Chavez became a major historical icon for the Latino community, symbolizing support for workers based on grass roots organizing and his slogan, “Si Se Puede,” “Yes, We Can.”
Along with Huerta, the two also fought against the Bracero Program, which ensured a constant supply of cheap immigrant labor for growers, immigrants who could not protest any infringement on their rights lest they be fired. Chavez’ and Huerta’s efforts contributed greatly to Congress ending the Bracero Program in 1964.
Though he died in 1993, his legacy still lives on. From President Barack Obama borrowing from Chavez’ motto “Si Se Puede,” for his 2008 “Yes, We Can” winning campaign slogan, to schools and streets and parks being named after the great labor leader, there is no doubt that Chavez brought hope, and continues to bring hope, to millions of poor, disenfranchised workers who otherwise would remain “invisible.”
Pieces of his legacy are closer than you can imagine. There are 10 parks in California named after Chavez. There are six streets named after him, along with the City of Lynwood naming the street that borders the northern part of Lynwood City Park, Cesar E. Chavez Lane. And there are, according to Wikipedia, 29 schools in California named after Chavez, along with the Lynwood Unified School District’s Board of Education’s recent vote to name its newest middle school Cesar Chavez Middle School.