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A Weekend to Honor Late Labor Leader Cesar Chavez PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez   
Thursday, 27 March 2014 04:12

Photo Credit Jocelyn Sherman

The film “Cesar” opens in movie theaters nationwide and the 21st Annual Cesar Chavez March for Justice will be held this weekend

It is a big weekend to honor the legacy of Cesar Chavez. In what has become an annual tradition in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, hundreds of supporters of the late labor leader are expected to walk this Sunday, March 30, in the 21st annual Cesar Chavez March for Justice. They will gather first at Brand Park in Mission Hills before marching along Laurel Canyon Blvd. to Ritchie Vallens Park in Pacoima.

This longtime effort spearheaded by the local Cesar Chavez commemorative committee based in the Northeast Valley, has been described by Paul Chavez as “one of the most active groups in the nation that works to preserve my grandfather’s legacy.”

The film, “Cesar” is also opening in box offices across the country.

“This weekend is crucial,” said actor Jacob Vargas, who plays Cesar's brother, Richard Chavez in the film. “Buying a ticket is like casting a vote and sends a message to the studios to say, we want more films like this.”

Vargas, a former student of Vaughn Elementary School in Pacoima and San Fernando High School, said he received the greatest compliment that an actor can receive at a recent screening in Los Angeles when Chavez family members told him that he had “nailed it and captured Richard's spirit.” Richard died a few years ago, so while there wasn't video footage, there were audio tapes and for the part, Vargas listened to hours of tapes archived and heard Richard speak of growing up with Cesar.

“Richard was Cesar's younger brother and a true unsung hero of the movement. They were farmworkers together and dating girls together and felt the oppressive sting of racism together,” Vargas said.

“Richard left the fields and opened up a carpentry and construction business and wound up mortgaging his home to start a credit union for the UFW. While he did a lot of the work behind his brother, he was comfortable with letting his brother be the face of the union.”

Vargas said it was especially meaningful to hear Richard on tape speak of his mother. “Richard said his mother told him and Cesar to find people in need or someone who was homeless and bring them back home to share a meal. This was so many years ago,” Vargas reflected and added it could have been the spark for a life of public service for Cesar.

Richard Chavez is Cesar's younger brother and a true unsung hero of the movement. They were farmworkers and they dated girls together, and felt the sting of racism together growing up.

Andres Chavez, a grandson of the famous leader, is a college student studying public policy at CSUB (Bakersfield) and runs the speakers bureau for the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

He has been traveling to various events to speak about the work in the fields on behalf of farmworkers that his grandfather committed his life to as well as the work he said that many are unaware of, that included economic development.

Chavez plans on being in Los Angeles this weekend to talk to a group of elementary school students after they watch the film about his grandfather.

“It's really important that people know about what happened in the past and for the next generation to understand the power of peaceful protest and understand the fight for contemporary issues like immigration reform,” he said.

Like Vargas, Andres Chavez is encouraging people to send a message to Hollywood that more films like “Cesar” are needed. “We hope that this film breaks down the barriers for more positive films about Latinos, not films that portray people negatively like gangsters or cholos and we think this can be a film that breaks down barriers,” he said.

“My grandmother [Helen Chavez] liked the film because she found it to be historically accurate and she liked the way America Ferrera portrayed her. My grandmother is really a humble lady and doesn't go out much, and when it was requested that she meet with America [while it wasn't expected to be a long meeting], my grandmother started telling her stories and America stayed for several hours. She was pleased with America's portrayal and the film. We thought Michael Pena did a good job portraying my grandfather.”

The film has also been dubbed in Spanish and more than 1,000 farmworkers were invited to watch the film Tuesday evening with filmmaker Diego Luna.

“It was a historical event,” said Vargas. “Something like this has never been done before in the birthplace of the [farmworkers] movement and a place where unfortunately farmworkers are still mistreated. It's important for them to hear this story and hopefully be inspired.” he said.

“It's a universal story. It's not everyday that a film celebrates a national hero. Cesar Chavez is an American and fought for American rights, and you see this man with all of his complexities. Just like all the people that supported the movement we hope people from all walks of life will see this film and it will open the doors for more stories that celebrate our community,” Vargas said.

Check local listings for a theatre showing “Cesar.” The walk for Justice begins at 8 a.m., at Brand Park in Mission Hills. A free health fair and festival with entertainment will be held at Ritchie Valens Park, 10736 Laurel Canyon Blvd., in Pacoima. There will be free health screenings including, eye exams, HIV screening, blood and bone marrow drive and referrals for additional health services. Counselors will also be available to enroll people for the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare