Remembering the legacy of Cesar Chavez

By CNN Staff

Published March 31, 2020

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Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American farm labor leader who brought attention to the difficult conditions farm workers faced.

The people who were harvesting the USA's food were unable to afford feeding their own families. So Chavez decided to take action.

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In 1962, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.

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His work helped California's farm workers gain fair wages, lunch breaks and access to toilets or clean water in the fields.

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Chavez believed in the power of nonviolent protests. He once went on a 25-day hunger strike. And on the final day, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy came to visit, calling him "one of the heroic figures of our time,” according to the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

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It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice.

Cesar Chavez's statement following his hunger strike

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Chavez died in 1993. An estimated 25,000 mourners accompanied his casket to his funeral Mass in Delano, California.

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Chavez would be remembered long after his death.

During Barack Obama's presidency, he decreed March 31, the anniversary of Chavez's birth, as Cesar Chavez Day. Obama also honored him with a national monument in Keene, California.

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Fun fact: The rallying cry of Chavez's farm workers movement was “¡Si se puede!” Obama had used the English version, "Yes We Can," as his own campaign slogan.

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So how can you learn more about Chavez’s legacy?

  • You can learn more about him by visiting the Cesar Chavez Foundation website.

  • Or check out “Cesar Chavez,” a 2014 biopic starring Michael Peña and America Ferrera.

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