October 31, 2012 by jmendez14
“Si se puede,” are the most famous words spoken by an influential Mexican American activist. Born Cesario Estrada Chavez in Arizona to Librado and Juana Chavez, Cesar Chavez is considered one of the most important Latin American figures. Chavez’s family owned a small farm and during the Great Depression they lost it along with a small country store. After that his family packed up and moved. Chavez ended up going to thirty-eight different schools and dropping out after the eighth-grade. He joined the Navy and left after two years and went on to meet a priest Father Donald McDonnell who introduced him to Gandhi and St. Francis. Father McDonnell was one of Chavez’s catalysts in becoming a great leader because he also introduced Chavez to the idea that non-violence could be positive in changing the world. The man who taught Chavez to put his principles into actions though was Fred Ross, an organizer and recruiter for Community Service Organization (CSO). Cesar was very active, becoming an organizer and rising to become president of CSO. He requested to organize farmer workers, but was turned down and he signed from CSO and started his own organization, the National Farmworkers Association. NFA joined with Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee in a strike against grape growers. The two unions merge and from then Chavez called a national boycott and the battle against grape growers improved compensation and labor conditions for workers, the majority who were Latinos. He improved the conditions and was able to get signed contracts and was able to bring awareness to dangers of pestcides to workers’ health. He participated in strikes, protested, and boycotted; it is believed that Chavez’s hunger strikes contributed to his death: He died on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, Arizona.
His nonviolent movements toward agriculture labor unions that included many Latinos made him a very influential figure in the Latin American community. He is considered to be one the most positive figures. His legacy is a powerful one, where his most famous slogan is known to all Latinos, “Si se puede”. Cesar Chavez has left an inspirational legacy where schools, parks, libraries, etc. have been named after him. There are also three states that have March 31st as Cesar Chavez day. Cesar Chavez will always be considered a positive historical icon.