MARCH 22, 2021 — From his nonviolent tactics to spearheading the historic 400-mile California farmworker march from Delano to Sacramento, Cesar E. Chávez believed in la causa (“the cause”) of fighting for social change.
This week, UTSA and the Cesar E. Chávez Education and Legacy Foundation will honor Chávez, la causa, and all farmworkers in Continuing the Spirit of La Causa: Honoring the Farmworker, a virtual platica (or “talk”) celebrating youth leadership on Wednesday, March 24 at noon.
Chávez was a labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Dolores Huerta, cofounded the National Farm Workers Association and later the United Farm Workers union. The Mexican American Chávez grew up being a farmworker. His community-based, aggressive but nonviolent tactics gained nationwide support for the farmworkers’ struggle. By the late 1970s the UFW helped improve rights for 50,000 fieldworkers in California and Florida.
“It is important to remember leaders like Chávez and Huerta because when we see people that look like us—like my tio, like my tia—who have heart and are fuerte in seeking justice, we believe we can do it too,” said Elvira Leal, who is a member of the civil rights marches committee at UTSA as well as assistant vice president for community relations. “I can be like them and go into an uncomfortable space and still do the right thing. I am empowered by their story.”
The virtual talk will feature Roberto “El Capitan” Bustos, who helped lead the farmworkers’ 400-mile, 25-day march in 1966. The pilgrimage, which was made up of Latino and Filipino grape workers, served as a symbol for social change.
Bustos also will be joined by Ernest Martinez, chairman of the Cesar E. Chávez Legacy and Educational Foundation. Martinez has been around la causa his whole life; his late father, the civil rights activist Jaime P. Martinez, started the foundation and established the annual Cesar E. Chávez March for Justice in San Antonio in 1997.
The foundation, which is 100% volunteer-led, preserves the life and legacy of Chávez through outreach efforts and events as well as teaching about Chávez’s legacy to San Antonio youth.
UTSA’s Lilliana Saldana, an associate professor and Mexican American Studies Program coordinator in the Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality Studies, will lead the discussion, which will focus on a variety of topics from Chávez’s philosophical influences, the United Farm Workers, the history of renaming downtown San Antonio’s Durango Boulevard as Cesar E. Chávez Blvd., and the many contributions of leaders like Huerta, Martinez and Bustos.
Following the discussion, Lanier High School students Shy Rene Corona, who is involved in the West Side community organization Inner City Development, and Hector Martinez, a member of the Alamo Colleges District student advisory committee, will lead a Q&A session.
Registration is required for to attend the talk, which is part of San Antonio’s Cesar E. Chávez 25th Anniversary Virtual March for Justice. Every year a UTSA team has participated in the march, which would begin at Guadalupe and South Brazos streets and continue to Hemisfair Park. UTSA’s team usually includes representatives from the Office of the President; Student Government Association; Mexican American Studies Program; African American Studies Program; Student Leadership Center; Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion; Veteran and Military Affairs; and Center for Civic Engagement.
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