Although many families will observe Easter today, the holiday is not the only reason for celebration. Today is the birthday of one of the most admired Latino civil rights champions, Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez Day reminds us of the struggles that Latinos have endured, and gives us hope for a more inclusive nation as we look toward the future.
We remember Chavez as the father of the modern-day Hispanic civil rights movement. His leadership in organizing farmworkers, which led to the founding of the United Farmworkers Union (UFW), resulted in widespread visibility for a group of people who for too long had been subjected to unfair and exploitative labor practices. That philosophy is still the foundation for the UFW’s mission.
Of course, we can’t honor Chavez’s legacy without recognizing the many hurdles that he and farmworkers had to overcome. Chavez’s tenacious and inspiring spirit, combined with every farmworker’s yearning for respect and decent living standards, is what drove the movement day in and day out—often in the face of crushing defeat.
Recognizing this tenacity and drive is especially poignant as a comprehensive immigration reform bill seems closer than ever, and may even be passed by the end of the year. For the first time in many years, we have a president who is committed to signing his name to a good piece of legislation and a Congress that appears ready to address this critical issue. NCLR and Affiliates have been actively engaged in this debate.
Time and again our community has managed to overcome obstacles, but the road to reform will continue to challenge us all as we draw closer to a deal. In trying times, we look to Chavez and his example to see how important tenacity can be when standing for what is right. When dealing with setbacks—as we did when the DREAM Act failed to pass in 2010—we might feel crushed, and even shed a few tears. But to see those DREAMers holding a press conference immediately after that devastating vote, confirming that they, and we, would not give up, was not only a testament to the strength of those inspiriting youth—it was a testament to Chavez’s legacy and example. We as a community have been here before, and no matter what setbacks we endure, we will not give up.
As we prepare ourselves for our work ahead, we leave you with Chavez’s famous rallying cry: ¡Sí, se puede!