On March 31, we celebrate #CesarChavezDay and honor the birthday, life, and legacy of civil rights and farm-labor leader, Cesar Estrada Chavez. This day is the nucleus for #FarmworkerAwarenessWeek, as Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (now United Farm Workers of America) in 1962 to strive for farmworker welfare and establish a lasting farmworkers union. Programs forged by the NFWA included a burial program, the first credit union for farm workers, health clinics, daycare centers, job-training programs and affordable housing for farmworkers [source: CesarChavezFoundation.org]. These programs are incredibly important considering the extreme physical demands of farm labor, historic inequity in pay and benefits, and the exploitation of migrant workers, among other factors.
Activist Dolores Huerta (April 10, 1930) – also a Latine changemaker born in the West in a farming family – co-founded the NFWA with Chavez. As the leading lobbyist, legislative activist, and spokesperson for the organization, Huerta influenced policy and presidents throughout her career, moving the shovel (far more powerful than the needle) for farm laborers and gaining visibility and representation especially for women in the field and beyond. Huerta also gave us the empowering declaration, “¡SÍ se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”). [sources: @doloreshuertafd and @womenshistory websites]
As we enter a new growing season and spring beckons all things green, it’s a great time to reflect on the immense contributions of Chavez and Huerta. If you don’t already have a practice of gratitude for the farmworkers on whom we rely for essential daily nutrition, we invite you to start today. Next time you’re holding a piece of fruit or grabbing groceries, think of the many individuals who cared for, worked, and traversed the land to make that possible.
📸 : 1. Richard Avendon, "Cesar Chavez and Company, Dolores Huerta, United Farm Workers," Keene, California, June 27, 1976 / courtesy of @avedonfoundation, #richardavedon
2. Cesar Chavez, @chavezfoundation
3. Dolores Huerta, @doloreshuertafd
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