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Cesar Chavez: a Labor Leader and Personality

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Intelligence is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, this can come in many forms. Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor is most known for his theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner believes there are seven bits of intelligence; musical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, and interpersonal intelligence. Many people seem to possess interpersonal intelligence which includes the ability to understand and interact effectively with others. Many important people in history have used their interpersonal intelligence to accomplish many great things. Cesar Chavez was one of those people who used his interpersonal skills to help him understand and help people.

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona to Librado and Juana Chavez. Cesar’s household was mainly Spanish speaking so when he started attending the Laguna Dam school which prohibited other languages other than English, he encountered some problems. Throughout his school years, he was constantly picked on for being poor. Cesar did not let that bother him and he finished junior high in 1942. He enlisted in the navy a couple of years later and served an honorable two years. Shortly after he started a family with Helen Fabela, and the couple later moved to the farm town of Delano, California. After many years of working with many farmworkers who didn’t have a voice, Chavez wanted to change that. He was intent on forming a labor union for farmworkers but, to conceal this aim, told people that he was simply conducting a census of farmworkers to determine their needs. He began devising the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), referring to it as a ‘movement’ rather than a trade union. He was aided in this project both by his wife and by Dolores Huerta, another activist.

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The National Farm Workers Association later became the United Farm Workers of America. Cesar Chavez was determined to improve the way immigrant farmers were treated so he did many risky things to change their lives and raise public awareness. He and his union went after many powerful people and corporations like Schenley, DiGiorgio Corporation, United Brands Corporation, and even the food branch of Coca Cola. He and his supporters marched 21 miles in a day giving him a swollen ankle and large blister. The next day his right leg was swollen to the knee, and by the week’s end he had to ride in a station wagon because he had gotten so injured. Chavez also fasted three times during his life to raise awareness for his cause. He had fasted for 25 days and 24 days straight his first two times. Then, on his final fast at 61 years old, he didn’t eat for 36 days. He did so to support grape boycotts and to protest anti-union laws. ‘Humor’ isn’t usually the first thing people think of when it comes to Cesar Chavez, but part of his charisma is that he could make a joke about a lot of things. Even when he was put in jail and fined for $500, he made fun of Bud Antle for thinking that just because they put him in jail, he would stop encouraging people to boycott Bud Antle’s lettuce.

During all of the time he was alive, Cesar Chavez showed persevering, courageous, and compassionate interpersonal skills. Cesar inspired millions of people to dare to fight for what is right, Cesar Chavez has emerged as an international hero. Instead of taking a passive role when there was a serious issue at hand, Chavez decided to take a stand when the rest of the world was silent. He did not falter when all of the other organizations rose up against him; he simply strengthened his resolve and courage instead. Another quality that is admirable about him is his immense heart; even though he had nothing himself, he chose to dedicate his life to the other mistreated migrant farmworkers in similar or worse conditions. These qualities spur me on to be the best person that I can be. His life and accomplishments are proof that no matter how ‘small’ I may seem if I am determined, valiant, and benevolent, I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. A small act of kindness or victory is like a ripple; though a single ripple may be invisible in a pond, a hundred ripples can form a giant wave that sweeps over the whole surface. Chavez’s numerous ‘ripples’ drastically affected the lives of laborers and their families all over the world. Additionally, his story influences millions with its international message that one should always fight for justice, even when no one else will.

Cesar Estrada Chavez died peacefully in his sleep on April 23, 1993, near Yuma, Arizona, a short distance from the small family farm in the Gila River Valley where he was born more than 66 years before. On April 29, 1993, Cesar Estrada Chavez was honored in death by those he led in life. More than 50,000 mourners came to honor the charismatic labor leader at the site of his first public fast in 1968 and his last in 1988, the United Farm Workers Delano Field Office at “Forty Acres.” It was the largest funeral of any labor leader in the history of the U.S. They came in caravans from Florida to California to pay respect to a man whose strength was in his simplicity. Farmworkers, family members, friends and union staff took turns standing vigil over the plain pine coffin which held the body of Cesar Chavez. Among the honor guard were many celebrities who had supported Chavez throughout his years of struggle to better a lot of farmworkers throughout America. Many of the mourners had marched side by side with Chavez during his tumultuous years in the vineyards and farms of America. For the last time, they came to march by the side of the man who had taught them to stand up for their rights, through nonviolent protest and collective bargaining. Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney, who celebrated the funeral mass, called Chavez “a special prophet for the worlds’ farmworkers.” Pall bearers, including crews of these workers, Chavez children, and grandchildren, then carried their fallen leader, resting at last, from the Memorial Park to Forty Acres.

The death of Chavez marked an era of dramatic changes in American agriculture. His contributions would be eroded, and others would have to shoulder the burden of his work. But, Cesar Chavez, who insisted that those who labor in the earth were entitled to share fairly in the rewards of their toil, would never be forgotten. As Luis Valdez said, “Cesar, we have come to plant your heart like a seed . . . the farm workers shall harvest in the seed of your memory.”

Cesar Chavez had some critics, even people who called him a communist, but it was and is clear that he was a very sociable person. He won the hearts of farmworkers and social activists. When Cesar Chavez had a hearing due to his refusing to lift a boycott and 2,000 farm workers came to Salinas to attend the court hearing carrying flags and candles. They respected Cesar’s nonviolent ways and quietly filled the courtroom and the outside area for 3 1/2 hours. He was friends with people like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. In fact, Coretta Scott King and Ethel Kennedy (the widows of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy) came to visit Cesar while he was serving what would end up being 20 days in jail because of his refusing to lift that boycott. The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) or what it was later called, United Farm Workers (UFW), gained 30,000 members within six years of being established. A vote was taken in California to see what union, if any, farm workers wanted to be represented by. 30 percent wanted the Teamsters, 27 percent didn’t want to be represented by a union, and 53 percent put their faith in the UFW and in Chavez.

All of these attributes that Cesar Chavez contributed to the world all are strongly considered interpersonal. When taking an online quiz, it determined that I also had interpersonal intelligence. I one day hope to use my skills for something good, such as Cesar Chavez.

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