|Growing up in the 60s I knew I had cousins in California, I new Disneyland was there, and I knew I wanted to go!|
I also remember my parents starting to talk about a man with a funny name. For some reason this man didn't want us to eat California grapes. There was a great level of respect in my parent's voice when they spoke about this man.
Grapes disappeared from our home.
We were told to pray for this man from California with the funny name.
Years later I would find out, this man was Cezar Chavez.
Born in a small adobe home in Yuma, Arizona in 1927. His family became migrant farm workers in California after losing their small farm in the Depression. He served in the navy in WWII. He returned to the fields until becoming a community organizer in 1952. In 1962 he confounded the National Farm Workers Association, later to become the United Farm Workers. In 1965 he led a 5 year strike and nationwide grape boycott to improve the rights and lives of migrant workers. In 1966 he gained the support of Senator Robert Kennedy. In 1968 he went on a 25 day hunger strike for the principles of non violence. There would be many more hunger strikes, influenced by the Catholic tradition of doing penance and by Gandhi's fasts and emphasis of nonviolence.
He was a student of Gandi and Jesus. He lived his live based on the principles of nonviolence, love for others, social justice, and the non accumulation of wealth.
At the end of his fast in 1968 he said these words: “I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of humanity, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice. To be human is to suffer for others. God help us to be human.”
He was a tireless worker for civil rights, workers rights and the dignity of all people. He died in Arizona in 1993, not far from his boyhood home, with little accumulations, still fighting for those rights, that dignity.
The United Farm Workers have a slogan, "Si se pluede", "yes we can".
With God's help we truly can be human.
Si se puede!