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Cesar Chavez Remembered in the Valley PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez and Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 03 April 2014 06:16

Photos by Alejandro Chavez and A. Garcia / SFVS

Hundreds March in Honor of Farmworker Leader

Armando Gonzalez was not born when Cesar Chavez died in 1993, but for the Vaughn International Studies Academy (VISA) the legacy of the civil rights leader is still very much alive.

"He's a hero for the Hispanic people. He inspired the people to keep going and keep his legacy," said the 17-year-old as he carried a framed image of the stamp issued in honor of Chavez by the United States Post Office at the front of this year's 21st Annual Cesar Chavez March for Justice.

It was Gonzalez first time taking part in the march that began at Brand Park in Mission Hills. This march has been held in the northeast San Fernando Valley for the last 21 years but had new energy and much buzz for the movie "Cesar Chavez," released last weekend. While Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers with the deceased civil rights leader has been a central figure and often participated in this march, it was the first time for the young students to see a public figure and walk in a march.

Daisy Castillo, a student at San Fernando High School, said Chavez inspires her to work for others. "He was a leader who stood up for people who couldn't speak. He was a brave person," she said.

Huerta giving a first hand account told the crowd to realize that everyone has the ability to create change.

"We fought for basic necessities, things that every worker should have and Cesar showed us that we can make a change as long as we stick together and make a commitment," added Huerta.

Huerta told the large crowd that Chavez fasted two additional times beyond what was seen in the film, one of those times against the use of pesticides in the fields that were harming farm workers.

"I would like to also point out a correction [in the movie}...I was the one who came up with 'Si Se Puede'" not Chavez, Huerta chuckled. "But that's all right, it's all for the cause."

Huerta shared a bit about Chavez' personal life.

"There were only two things that Chavez feared, "God and Helen," a comment which made the crowd laugh. Huerta rallied the crowd in a shout and hand clap for "People power and Si Se Puede," before stepping off of the truck which was used as a stage, scores of people approached Huerta for and she took time to share a few words and pose for a photo with each one of them.

Mayor Gil Garcetti's was well represented at the march with several of his staff members accompanying him. From the stage, he announced that he has set up a new office of Immigration Affairs headed up Dr. Linda Lopez. “We sat down with Secretary Johnson of Homeland Security to say we need to do things differently," said Garcetti. "We should be taking the money [being used] for too many deportations and use it for the two million people who already qualify and needs to become citizens. Garcetti also referenced the Filipino farmworkers who organized the fields with Chavez and Huerta. "Food doesn't arrive to our tables automatically. Someone plants those seeds, someone picks that food, someone toils out there. All of us knows that the food which contains the life that sustains us comes from human beings that deserves dignity and human rights" Garcetti said it's still too hard for farmworkers today to find some shade and a place to drink.

Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Congressman Tony Cardenas and Bobby Shriver, a candidate for the Board of Supervisors also spoke about the late labor leader. "Cesar's work isn't done," said Yaroslavsky who spoke a little Spanish to the crowd. Shriver, who is running for L.A. County Board of Supervisors said his family -- the Kennedy's remains supportive of the farmworker's movement.

Dressed with a black T-shirt with the red eagle (the emblem of the UFW), Huerta walked the nearly two miles of the march alongside Mayor Garcetti, the first Mayor to take part in this march that began after Chavez passing in 1993.

Jacob Vargas, an actor born in Pacoima who appears in the movie playing Richard Chavez, the younger brother of Cesar Chavez, said the film has also inspired him to get more involved in the workers' struggles.

"Honestly, I didn't know much about him growing up," confessed Vargas, "and doing research for this film, I learned so much about him and it made me feel that I want to be more involved and look at what can I do to make a difference and I think that is what this movie does, it inspires people," said Vargas.

Schools throughout the northeast Valley participated in the march, in part because of a $5,000 scholarship offering to the school with the biggest participating in the event.

Among the schools was Cesar Chavez Learning Academy in San Fernando. Members of the school's football team all wore jerseys bearing the Chavez name. "Our coach came up with the idea", said an enthusiastic member of the team.

The marchers, young and old, carried the farm worker red, white and black flag. Many carried signs urging an end to deportations and calling for immigration reform.

A sea of people stretched along Brand Boulevard before turning on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. As they marched under the freeway underpass, the drums of Aztec dancers, marching bands and shouts of "Si Se Puede" swelled and loudly echoed invigorating the marchers that stopped at Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima where a health fair, more speeches and entertainment was held.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 April 2014 06:31