I have driven on East Cesar Chavez Street countless times, without any further thought as to who this person is or his place in history.
But after watching the “Cesar Chavez” movie, directed by Diego Luna, I realized that the name of this iconic street was not picked randomly, but is an important recognition of someone’s commitment and courage to give migrant farm workers a voice in times when their voices were left unheard.
In the 1960s, many workers — including children — worked long hours and suffered abusive treatment in the hands of their employers. Chavez worked tirelessly and formed a union of farm workers to put a stop to this abuse and attempt to get better wages. This led to multiple strikes in order to put pressure on employers, which in turn only angered them. Farm workers got desperate and sought for violent solutions.
Cesar Chavez, on the other hand, was a firm believer in nonviolence and went as far as fasting for 25 days to protest against these violent acts. His self-sacrifice brought workers together and further strengthened the union. Another non-violent strategy that Chavez used was the boycott of grapes. Supporters were asked to stop buying non-union grapes to bring substantial economic pressure on the large growers. When they desperately attempted to take their business abroad, he refused to give up and led his efforts to Europe.
Cesar Chavez is considered one of the most influential leaders in Latino history and a heroic figure of the civil rights movement. I’m glad that his story is being told in film to set an example and provide inspiration to future Latino generations.