This day in Chicano history: César E. Chávez (1927)

March 31, 1927:
César E. Chávez born near Yuma, Arizona

March 31st is a day to remember César Chávez’s legacy of service and sacrifice. Chávez’s birthday is a holiday in Califoria and seven other states. President Obama proclaimed March 31st César Chávez Day.

I know a lot of readers know about Chávez, so I’ll focus on his early life before he became a community organizer.

Cesar Chavez was born on a small farm near Yuma, Arizona on March 31, 1927. After being forced off their farm during the Depression, Cesar’s family moved to California in 1937 where they became migrant workers. Cesar was 10 years old when he began working in the fields. He was forced to leave school after graduating from the eighth grade in order to help support his family.

In 1945, he fought the good fight against fascism as he joined the U.S. Navy serving in the western Pacific during the end of World War II. In 1948, he married Helen Fabela and raised eight children in East San Jose where he and his wife taught farm workers to read and write so they could become U.S. citizens. [Source: Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday]

Earlier in the week, I wasn’t so keen on Chávez. I went for a run on Monday night. I set off on my usual route around the park and golf course. About half way through, I turned back toward the park because I wasn’t feeling well and needed to get to the bathroom. As I neared the park’s gym, I noticed all the doors were closed and had flyers posted with César Chávez’s photo. The park was closed in observance of Chávez’s birthday. I momentarily cursed Chávez, or the holiday — I really had to go to the bathroom.

But I took back my bad thoughts when I remembered that I collected signatures in the late 90s in support of a state holiday. And I was educated in the César E. Chávez Center for Chicana/o Studies at UCLA (now department). And my dad kinda looks like him. Plus, I found an open bathroom by the tennis courts.

Historia, Música

This day in Chicana herstory: Selena Quintanilla-Pérez is killed (1995)

March 31, 1995:
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, Tejano music superstar, was killed by Yolanda Saldívar. She was 23 years old.

I wrote about the anniversary of her passing four years ago:

“Did you even know her before she died?”

“No,” I admitted.

He looked at me like I was a fraud. Well, not really. But that’s what I felt like when I admitted my pre-1995 Selena ignorance.

In 1995 I was busy getting through my freshman year of high school. All I listened to was KROQ and was pretty much over the banda craze of the early 1990s. I hardly ever switched the dial to any of LA’s many popular Spanish-language stations.

When my 8-year old neighor, Jorge, came over to our house to tell us the breaking news that Selena had been shot and was dead (or dying, can’t remember), I thought “who?” Jorge saw the look of confusion on my face and told me it was the woman who sang “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” I had some familiarity with the song, but didn’t know anything about the singer. Like many other people, I got to know Selena’s music posthumously and through the Gregory Nava film.

I remember watching the film in Ontario at the movie theater where my cousin worked (he got us in free, one of the perks of being employee of the year). I completely identified with the young Selena Quintanilla. My dad used to teach me Mexican songs. He’d translate the lyrics and explain what the words meant. Danny, my older brother, and I were put in singing contests and often willingly joined our dad when he brought out the guitar.

Go dance a cumbia in her honor. If you don’t have any songs available, check the Bicoastal Mixtape. I’ve posted a couple of her songs. Or watch the movie.

Boda, Familia

The reactions

A few years ago, I had a conversation with Alex about how one should spread the news about an engagement. I’m unsure if he had already asked his girlfriend to marry him. It was definitely before the Facebook engagement to Sean. Either way, we agreed that some people should not find out about life changing events like engagements or pregnancies via FB. I kept this in mind last week.

On Monday night after Sean proposed, I kept the news to my parents and siblings (except Adrian, he has an early bed time), a couple of my closest friends and roommates. Sean only called his best friend as everyone else was already asleep on the east coast. Neither one of us mentioned anything on FB or Twitter.

I spoke to Adrian as soon as I woke up on Tuesday morning. I told him the story I’d repeat several more times as I called other family members and more of my closest friends. I was often initially congratulated and asked about the marathon. The transition to the engagement was a little awkward, but all that faded away as soon as I broke the news and got some incredulous, but very happy responses.

Sean shared the news his friends on the east coast. Before I got out of bed, I had a half dozen posts on my FB offering vague congratulations.

I proceeded to email and send FB messages to cousins, aunts and uncles. Afterward, I posted on Twitter, FB and the blog. Sean did the same. I would have loved to wait to share until another mini family reunion, but containing the news was almost impossible. The nice thing about using email, FB and Twitter is that all those reactions are saved to more than just my memory.

I went through the reactions again this evening. It was a good antidote to the stress I felt Sunday night as Sean and I talked about a timeline — next fall sounds good, at least right now — and began checking out overwhelming wedding planning blogs and websites. I’ve posted some of the reactions from family and friends below. I’ll come back to it as I plan and stress to remind me that they’re not people on a guest list, just another plate at dinner or dot on a seating chart. They’re people who love and care for me and Sean and I’m blessed to have them in my life.

Continue reading

Historia, Política

This day in Chicano history: San Antonio ISD v. Rodríguez

March 21, 1973:

With all the excitement earlier this week, I didn’t get around to posting about the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the San Antonio ISD v. Rodríguez case, an important case when it comes to educational inequality.

From Mexican Americans and the Law:

In the landmark San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodríguez (1973) case, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether a state system of financing public education through property taxes violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it discriminated on the basis of wealth. Petitioners in the case also claimed the U.S. constitution provided a fundamental right to an education under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Brought by the parents of Mexican American children living in San Antonio, Texas, the case highlighted the blatant disparities in resources among San Antonio school districts. The federal trial court ruled in favor of Rodríguez, holding that the Texas system for funding public schools was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As the case extract illustrates, however, on appeal the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, holding in a five-to-four decision that education is a responsibility of the states, not the federal government. The Court also noted that it had never held that disparities in resources based on wealth constituted a violation of the Constitution. The Court’s decision had the effect of setting a less progressive tone for educational equality during the 1980s and 1990s.

The Court rejected the rationale that education (although not mentioned in the Constitution) was a fundamental right because it is necessary when it comes to manifesting your First Amendment rights and voting. In the opinion of the majority written by Justice Lewis Powell, the Court stated “we have carefully considered each of the arguments that education is a fundamental right or liberty and have those arguments unpersuasive.”


I didn’t learn about San Antonio ISD v. Rodríguez until I started to look in to the legal foundation allowing undocumented children and youth to attend US schools and colleges.