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.


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