Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Poster of the Week

Cesar Chavez Memorial Poster
Juan Fuentes
La Raza Graphics
Silkscreen, 1993
San Francisco, CA

Cesar E. Chavez Day, March 31, is recognized as a state holiday in California, Colorado and Texas, and efforts are ongoing to make it into a national holiday. California was the first state to proclaim the holiday, a result of organizing by Los Angeles volunteers. This marked the first time that a labor leader or Latino has been honored with a public legal holiday.* The holiday is celebrated in California on Cesar E. Chavez’s birthday March 31st. 

When the National Farm Workers Association was co-founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, they accomplished what was thought to be impossible—the organizing of poor and uneducated farm laborers.  Born on March 31, 1927, near Yuma, Arizona, Chavez was no stranger to the struggle of farm labor.  His family lost their small farm during the depression and moved to San Jose, California, where they worked as migrant farmers.  As a child, Chavez also worked in the fields to help out the family.  His father had belonged to farm labor unions, and Chavez himself had belonged to the National Farm Labor Union.  In the 1950s, Chavez became an organizer for the Community Service Organization (CSO), and learned grass root strategies.  In 1958, he became CSO director for California and Arizona.  Chavez became interested in organizing a labor union for farm workers, and tried to convince CSO to develop a farm labor union.  When his ideas were rejected, Chavez resigned from the organization in 1962.  He moved to Delano, where he and other activists including Dolores Huerta, founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), which later became the UFW. 
In September 1965, 1500 Filipino grape pickers in Delano, California, members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) went out on strike to protest years of poor pay and conditions. They asked the NFWA to join the strike. One week later NWFA’s 1200-member families voted to join the strike. In response to Cesar’s condition that strikers take a solemn vow to remain nonviolent, the strikers turned to boycotts. This strike changed the face of agriculture in the United States. In 1966, the Filipino American AWOC and the Mexican and Mexican American NFWA merged to form the United Farm Workers.
Until his death in 1993, Chávez remained the head of the UFW.  He continued to live as he did in the 1960s, sleeping four hours, meditating and attending daily mass.  He continued to use fasts as a way of calling attention to the farm workers’ demands.  He was both a charismatic and controversial leader.  His anti-communism and inability to delegate authority weakened the union at the same time that his dedication and vision strengthened it.  Chávez gave people La Causa (The Cause) to fight for the rights and dignity of everyone.

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