Honoring the Life of César Estrada Chávez

Dusty sandaled feet,
Darkened faces seared by sun,
Hands scarred by thorns,
Wounds and overuse;
The arrow of death flung
Stilled César’s soul today,
Stunned farm workers
Arrayed in stony disbelief,
Leave fields with stout hearts crushed,
Gathered, stare at each other,
In unbearable quiet silence;
Their hot tears and mine combine,
A river of grief begins to flow
Watering the soil across the land,
From the grape yards of California,
To the apple groves of Pennsylvania.
– Diana Washington Valdez, “When César Chávez Died” July 2017

We celebrate César Chávez because our society would not be the same without his influence. In honoring César Chávez Day, we wanted to hear from our Latinx student community. We asked Natalie Guevara, director of Chicano Latino Student Services (CLSS), and her students to share some reflections on the impact of his amazing work on their lives. 

As a Latinx/e Catholic, I remain deeply inspired by the work of César Estrada Chávez in having tirelessly protected, fought for, and advocated for the rights of our Latinx/e communities. Helping to improve pay and working conditions for farm laborers and paving the way to allow agricultural workers to unionize are just some of Chávez’s many accomplishments. It is clear that Chávez’s Catholic identity has driven much of his social justice work, as is reflected through his work in the Preferential Option for the Poor and the rights of workers outlined in “Rerum Novarum.” Similarly, I am motivated and driven to continue to live my life at the service of faith and the promotion of justice.
– Jesus “Paco” Estrada ’24

Every year, we usually have a workers’ appreciation lunch around César Chávez Day for the LMU workers who are often overlooked. Since we’re not able to do that this year, we wanted to bring attention to how COVID-19 has brought many of the injustices related to workers’ rights to the forefront. This event is important because it reminds us of the legacy of the labor movement and helps us think about the context for the movement going forward in 2021.
– Barbara Velasco ’21

Recognizing César Chávez day on a campus like LMU forces us to scrutinize the ways we live out our mission of practicing the service of faith and the promotion of justice on behalf of our LMU community members whose labor we depend on. Chávez’s legacy of solidarity with underserved communities must continue so that our community benefits as a whole. It’s an honor to have been part of this event for all four years I’ve been here and wish the event only gets better over time.
– Carla Arellano ’21

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community … Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” This quote by Caesar Chávez reminds me that we rise by lifting others. During a pandemic especially, we must appreciate the integral role farm workers and other essential workers play in our community and advocate for their protection and well-being.
– Alexis Cordova ’21

César Chávez selflessly dedicated his work to the betterment of society. His work inspires me to speak out about issues I see within my community and reminds me that change is always possible.
– Monica Yalung ’21

JOIN US on Wednesday, March 31 to celebrate the Life, Legacy, and Impact of César Chávez from 4-5:30 p.m. PDT, hosted by LMU’s Chicano Latino Student Services (CLSS) and Students for Labor and Economic Justice (SLEJ). In this panel conversation, LMU alums will reflect on how the pandemic has impacted workers’ rights and hear how these nonprofits have advocated for their communities.

This past year has resulted in a harsh reality for our BIPOC communities that includes massive unemployment, risking their health as essential workers, continued mistreatment of undocumented folk and the disproportionate loss of life as a result of the pandemic. As we celebrate César Chávez this year, we want to highlight some work that local nonprofit organizations are doing to help mitigate the impact and support our most vulnerable communities. Register here to attend our panel discussion with the following LMU Lions:

  • Community Health Councils – Albert Ramirez ’06
  • Community Coalition – Marianna Hernandez ’16
  • Detention Watch Network – Marcela Hernandez ’11
  • Wage Justice Center – Ana Cisneros Alvarez, J.D. ’13
  • Bet Tzedek – Yvonne Medrano ’07

OIA Buzz

Yesterday, President Snyder shared with the LMU community that Juneteenth will be commemorated annually as an official university holiday. Professor Stefan Bradley (AFAM) discussed the significance of Juneteenth, the “oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States,” in an interview last summer. In a nutshell, however, the story goes that Major General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, in June 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect in January 1863. On June 19, 1865, this Union Army general shared the news that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished. This year, June 19 falls on a Saturday, so LMU will honor the holiday on Friday, June 18, 2021.