Cesar Chavez was a prominent figure in the labour movement in the United States and was also an activist for civil rights.
Along with Dolores Huerta, he was a co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), which eventually combined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to form the labour organisation known as the United Farm Workers (UFW).
His worldview was characterised by a combination of leftist politics and the social teachings of Catholicism in terms of ideology.
UFW critics highlighted worries about Chavez’s dictatorial management of the union, the purges of individuals he deemed disloyal, and the personality cult established around him, while farm-owners considered him a communist subversive. Chavez was a divisive figure.
At an early age in his life, he gained an understanding of justice, or more precisely injustice. Cesar was born in Arizona, but his family was cheated out of the modest adobe house where he was raised by dishonest Anglo settlers. Cesar’s childhood was spent in Arizona.
Cesar’s father made a deal with Cesar’s uncle to clear eighty acres of property in exchange for receiving the deed to forty acres of land that was adjacent to the house. The arrangement wasn’t honoured, and a man whose name was Justus Jackson wound up buying the land.
The patriarch of the Cesar family consulted a legal professional, who recommended that he take out a loan in order to purchase the property. In later years, when Cesar’s father was unable to make the interest payments on the loan, the lawyer repurchased the land and then resold it to the person who had originally owned it.
Cesar had an eye-opening experience that taught him a valuable lesson about injustice, and he would never forget it. Later on, he would remark that our inherent passion for pursuing justice is not just the most admirable aspect of our nature, but also the element of our being that is the most accurate reflection of who we really are.
Cesar eventually made his way back to San Jose, and it was then that he became acquainted with Father Donald McDonnell, who would go on to have a significant impact on Cesar’s life. They discussed agricultural labourers on strike and related topics.
Cesar started reading books on nonviolence and people like St. Francis and Gandhi. Following in the footsteps of Father McDonnell was another extremely significant figure, Fred Ross.
Cesar joined Ross’s organization, which was known as the Community Service Organization or CSO, and took on the role of an organizer. The first thing on his to-do list was to register voters.\
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How Did Cesar Chavez Died?
On April 23, 1993, not far from Yuma, Arizona, where he was raised on a small family farm in the Gila River Valley for more than 66 years, Cesar Estrada Chavez passed away peacefully while sleeping.
The founder and president of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, was in Yuma assisting UFW attorneys in their defence of the union against a claim made by Bruce Church Inc., a sizable lettuce and vegetable producer with headquarters in Salinas, California. Church claimed that the farm workers owed millions of dollars in reparations for the 1980s UFW boycott of its lettuce.
Church “shopped around” for a friendlier court in conservative, agribusiness-dominated Arizona- where there had been no boycott activity- rather than bringing the legal case in a state where the boycott had occurred, like California or New York.
The UFW President who was present in Arizona with him during the trial said, “Cesar gave his every ounce of strength defending the farm workers in this case.”
He died defending their First Amendment right to self-expression. He was determined to demonstrate in court that the farm workers’ decision to boycott Bruce Church Inc. lettuce in the 1980s was the right one.
On Thursday, April 22, at around 3 p.m., the trial adjourned, and Cesar spent some of the day travelling through Yuma’s Latino communities that he had grown up in. There are still many Chavezes in the region.
He arrived at Dofla Maria Hau’s tiny concrete-block home, an old acquaintance and former farm worker, around 6 p.m. in San Luis, Arizona, which is about 20 miles from Yuma.
In a run-down area of farmworkers not far from the Mexican border, Cesar and eight other UFW officials and staff members were residing at her home.
Around nine o’clock in the evening, Cesar ate dinner and led a quick meeting to sum up the day’s activities. He had just completed two days of arduous questioning by lawyers for Bruce Church Inc.
Being mindful of the hard hours demanded of him and other union officers and staff, Cesar had recently made taking care of oneself a regular issue in his conversations with co-workers.
Despite being worn out from lengthy cross-examination on the witness stand, he was nonetheless upbeat and complained of feeling a little weak when completing his evening exercises.
At around 10 or 10:30 p.m., the UFW founder went to sleep. Later, according to a union employee, Cesar’s chamber had a reading light coming from it.
The following morning at six o’clock, the light was still on. That wasn’t thought to be exceptional. Typically, Cesar would get up early- well before dawn- to read, write, or meditate.
When he didn’t emerge by nine in the morning, his coworkers went to his bedroom and discovered Cesar had evidently passed away while sleeping the night before, according to the authorities.
He was discovered with his head tilted to the left and lying on his back. He was not wearing his shoes, and his outfit from the previous day was still on. He held a book about Native American crafts in his right hand. On his face was a contented smile.
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