César Chávez was born on March 31, 1927 into a Mexican-American family residing in Yuma, Arizona. The onset of the Great Depression 1929 stripped his parents of their farmland, forcing the whole family to submit to the toils of migrant farm work in the southwestern region of the United States. After completing the seventh grade, Chavez was forced to drop out of school in order to contribute to his family’s income by working alongside his parents and siblings on the fields. It was here that he was subjected to the malicious racism that accompanied the insufficient wages he was paid for his grueling physical labor. This full-time job only lasted for two years, however, due to his joining of the Navy in 1944. After serving in the Navy for two years during World War II, he moved to Delano, California for the prospect of working in nearby agricultural fields. Chavez married Helen Fabela, his high school sweetheart, in 1948; the pair eventually had eight children together. Chavez’s life was altered forever when he was recruited by Fred Ross to join the Community Service Organization in 1952. The Community Service Organization sought to help poor Latinos located in California by encouraging them to seek equality in their communities. Through the CSO, Chavez was able to promote voter registration among these people. It was Chavez’s commitment to the CSO in the 1950s that laid the groundwork for the formation of the National Farm Workers Association was founded in 1962. His passion for uniting farm workers through this union was fueled by his desire for higher wages and nonviolence for the minorities working as migrant farm laborers. Although Chavez is mainly remembered as an advocate for worker’s rights, he also publically supported animal rights and the restriction of illegal immigration as it ruptured the plight of the poor migrant workers. After decades of living life as an activist, Cesar Chavez passed away of natural causes at the age of sixty-six on April 23, 1993.
The legacy of Cesar Chavez is, most importantly, the foundation the United Farm Workers. The United Farm Workers has since continued to adopt Chavez’s mission as their own by working to reduce discrimination against minority farm workers. They have recently been successful in enforcing worker laws amongst various companies, namely heat regulations, as many workers have died of heat related issues during the past decade. This action is very similar of the work of Chavez who in the 1980s worked to protect workers from the prevalence of pesticide poisoning. Although no longer in operation, the legacy of Chavez also includes the establishment of the Colegio Cesar Chavez: the first accredited four-year institution for Latinos in the United States. His birthday has even become a holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas as a way to celebrate and promote community service in honor of his iconic status in American history.
Cesar Chavez was one of the most influential union organizers of the twentieth century thanks to his dedication to improve the labor conditions of his fellow minority farm workers. Working conditions for farm laborers improved significantly due to his presidency of the United Farm Workers. Part of his appeal to the masses he so greatly inspired was the fact that he had first hand experience of the backbreaking work farm laborers were expected to perform. The work Chavez did in terms of union organization and promotion paved the way for many milestones in history of the United States; the first farm labor laws to be established in the United States came to be because of Chavez’s influence. Cesar Chavez will forever remain a symbol amongst the Latino community for dedication, nonviolence, and the pursuit of equality.
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