Northgate observes Cesar Chavez day for the first time
“Cesar Chavez was important not only to the farm laborers, not only to the Hispanic individuals, he was important because he was a civil rights leader,” -Felipe Fajardo
The Northgate community has Cesar E. Chavez to thank for the extra Friday off before spring break last month. “Cesar Chavez Day” on March 31 marks the birthdate of an American hero.
The California holiday, officially known as Cesar Chavez National Holiday, commemorates the Mexican-American migrant worker and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, Cesar Chavez (1927-1993). The National Farm Workers Association later joined forces with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee during their initial strike on California grape growers, becoming the United Farm Workers.
“Cesar Chavez was important not only to the farm laborers, not only to the Hispanic individuals, he was important because he was a civil rights leader,” said Felipe Fajardo, a Spanish teacher who incorporated a lesson on Chavez into his classes before spring break. “Not only did he work on behalf of the farm workers, he also worked in general as a civil rights leader for our society.”
Chavez upheld a standard of nonviolence, trading such methods for boycotts, marches and hunger strikes. The Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday website compares his honorable efforts to those of Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Ghandi. Similarly to his predecessors, Chavez “elevated the aspirations of an entire people.” Despite resistance, his success rought raises and improved work conditions for California, Arizona, Texas and Florida farmers.
Former President Barack Obama used his political influence as a senator, at the time, to kickstart the push for a national commemorative holiday in 2008. At the time, Obama saluted Chavez, saying, “Chavez left a legacy as an educator, environmentalist, and a civil rights leader. And his cause lives on. As farmworkers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago. And we should honor him for what he’s taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation.”
Using his influence as president, on March 28, 2014 Obama declared March 31 as the national day to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day. Though not an official national holiday, Cesar Chavez Day is recognized throughout the United States in a variety of ways. It is a formal holiday in Arizona, California, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah, and Wisconsin; an optional holiday in Colorado and Texas, meaning state offices are open with limited staffing; a festival day in Nebraska and Nevada; and a proclaimed commemorative holiday by the United States.
Fajardo celebrated the holiday in class, using a documentary to inform unaware students, alongside a powerpoint sharing personal experiences. Fajardo grew up working in fields picking crops, similar to Cesar Chavez; he has also met the American hero three times.
“My goal was to inform the students since we had a holiday for it, the Friday before Spring Break, to inform them of the significance of Cesar Chavez, especially to Hispanic people,” Fajardo said.
“The students were very interested, specifically because they got to learn about Cesar Chavez. Many of them did not know the story and though we have it as a holiday, they did not know who he was. And along with this, I personalized the presentation or lesson by sharing my experiences with Cesar Chavez.”