President Barack Obama honored the memory of Cesar Chavez yesterday by designating the property at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (in Keene, California) as a national monument. La Paz was Cesar’s home from the early 1970s until his death in 1993 and the headquarters from which he directed the United Farm Workers union. It is also the site of his grave and where his widow, Helen, continues to live today.
In the photo at the right, the President and Helen Chavez lay a rose at Cesar’s gravesite.
Here’s a snippet of the comments the President offered yesterday:
Cesar cared. And in his own peaceful, eloquent way, he made other people care, too. A march that started in Delano with a handful of activists — (applause) — that march ended 300 miles away in Sacramento with a crowd 10,000 strong. (Applause.) A boycott of table grapes that began in California eventually drew 17 million supporters across the country, forcing growers to agree to some of the first farm worker contracts in history. Where there had once been despair, Cesar gave workers a reason to hope. “What [the growers] don’t know,” he said, “is that it’s not bananas or grapes or lettuce. It’s people.”
It’s people. More than higher wages or better working conditions, that was Cesar’s gift to us — a reminder that we are all God’s children, that every life has value, that, in the words of one of his heroes, Dr. King, ‘we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.’
The full text of the President’s comments are here. More resources:
- A press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior here;
- Commentary by Cesar’s grand-daughter, Julie Chavez Rodrigues, here;
- My own recent article, published in the August 27, 2012, issue of America magazine (available by subscription only), here.