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Cesar Chavez: The Savior of The Migrant Farm Worker

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Cesar Chavez: The Savior of The Migrant Farm Worker

Government 2301

Prof.

22 May 2007

Cesar Chavez: The Savior of the Migrant Farm Worker

An influential person only comes along once in a lifetime, and the birth of Cesar Chavez on March 31, 1927 is positively no exception. Chavez has been awarded all the same accolades that other American heroes have received such as holidays and streets honored with his name. Born in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez lived a normal life in a small adobe house on the outskirts of Yuma where his parents owned a ranch and a small grocery store which they subsequently lost during the Great Depression. Chavez learned at a very early age that life was not always fair. His father was dishonestly tricked out of a plot of land that he was promised by an Anglo land owner. Chavez's father agreed to clear eighty acres of land in trade for the deed to forty acres that joined the land he had cleared. When all was said and done, his father had to hire a lawyer, and ended up losing the land in the long run. Through this whole experience was born Chavez's pursuit of unwavering justice, no matter what the cost.

Between his eleventh and twelfth birthdays, Cesar and his family had moved back and forth from California twice before settling in the San Jose area. He and his family worked twelve different farms in the San Jose area. The Chavez family would pick peas and lettuce in the winter, cherries and beans in the spring, corn and grapes in the summer and cotton in the fall (America's library.com). During this trying time, Cesar was not particularly happy with his educational experience as the child of a migrant farm worker. Cesar attended over thirty different schools in which he had to endure harsh prejudice. He had to put up with the numerous racist comments and the difficulty of only speaking only Spanish, which was not allowed in the schools he attended. Luckily Cesar graduated the eighth grade, but due to an injury his father incurred he was unable to attend high school and went to work in the fields as a migrant farm worker. Cesar did not look at it as missing out on his education because to him nothing he learned in school prepared him for the life he knew he was destined for. Chavez's educational story does have a silver lining; later in life, higher education became his passion, and to anyone who was ever lucky enough to see his book collection in his Headquarters office would ultimately know that (Las Culturas .com). A four year Mexican-American college was established in his name in Mount Angel, Oregon, the very first of its kind in the United States. Sadly in 1983 due to severe financial problems the college had to close its doors, not before educating thousands of young minds in the hopes of someday following in the footsteps of its very namesake.

In 1944, Chavez joined and served two years in the Navy during World War II. After his tour of duty he returned to California and married his sweetheart Helen Fabela in the fall of 1948. He moved into a one room shack with his new bride and by 1959 the couple had eight children which forced Cesar back into the fields, but this time he let his voice be heard about the low wages and poor working conditions. Later that year he took part in his first strike, but only days later workers were pushed back into the fields without any resolution. In 1952 he became involved with the Community Service Organization and began urging Mexican-Americans to register and vote to have their voice heard. He became general director of CSO in 1958(incwell.com). Four years later Chavez would leave the CSO and make his own mark in history.

In 1962, Chavez formed an organization with fellow organizer Dolores Huerta which they named the National Farm Workers Association (NWFA) which was later changed to United Farm Workers (UFW) when it was joined by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. His philosophy was that of non-violence which he adapted from Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. during the struggle for civil rights. He has been heralded as one of the most influential civil rights leaders next to Dr. Martin Luther King. He also took a page from Gandhi's tactics by going on a twenty-five day fast, which did not solve immediate problems, but brought his struggle into the light of the nation. Chavez was a dominant force when it came to bringing the plight of the migrant farm workers into the public's view. Chavez's first official victory came in 1965 when he led a strike with the California grape-pickers union to demand higher wages. The strike of the California grape-pickers was capped off by a march that stretched from the vineyards of Delano to the state capitol in Sacramento. The strike lasted five years, and by the time it was over Chavez had the full support of Robert

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