Commemorating Cesar Chavez Day – Remembering Doña Adela

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cesar-chavezby Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald

Editor’s Note: This column is re-printed from one published on April 1, 2007.

On August 18 of 2000 state legislation was signed to establish Cesar Chavez Day in California. For many farm workers it was finally an opportunity to honor a man who organized them, led the largest grape industry boycott and formed the United Farm Workers requiring growers to bargain with farm workers who vote for unionization. For many it’s a day to show respect to a man who demanded respect for those, who like him, toiled in the fields day after day.

For me however, it is one out of 365 days, in which I remember a woman, who like Cesar, had motivation sufficient to act. She had “ganas.” A woman who thought of others. A woman who fought for the rights of others in the fields in injustice. A woman who led a strike with her co-workers, marched in on the boss and demanded that cold water, toilet paper and paper towels be provided at all times or they would walk. A woman who got what she wanted because Don Pedro knew that although he could get others to do the work they would not be as dedicated, hard-working, and honest as a woman named Adela Cardona Muñoz Escamilla, lovingly called Doña Adela by my four brothers and three sisters.

It’s another day to honor Adela, my father, and my seven siblings who laid the foundation for us to have a better life. It’s a day to honor those who worked hard in the ninety plus degree weather with the sun scorching down on them while donning long sleeved shirts and hats to protect themselves from being sunburned or worse yet getting skin cancer. It’s another day to honor my family for doing the back breaking work that would put food on the table, keep a humble one bedroom roof over our heads and help my family work towards having a better life.

I remember at the young age of four I would slowly wake up at 4:00 a.m. to the amazing smell of homemade flour tortillas being made. I could hear the rolling and light pounding of the “home made” rolling pin that had been cut by my father, Rafael, and given to my mother for making homemade tortillas for the family. The rolling pin was made from a piece of metal pipe that had been cut and filed so the edges would be smooth. A rolling pin those days might only cost a dollar or two, but that money could be used to buy beans, rice, or flour, so it was not something we could afford. Doña Adela could easily pound out a few dozen at 4:00 a.m. She loved to joke that if anyone ever broke into our home they would have not only the family to deal with, but they would have the “palote” to deal with too. I actually slept with “the palote” in my lap while sleeping at rest stops as I drove alone from St. Louis, MO to California back in 1998 upon finishing a post-baccalaureate Executive Fellowship with the Coro Foundation. I didn’t want to risk leaving my car full of one year’s worth of living in St. Louis, so I slept in my car. The “palote” protected me.

At 4:00 a.m. my mother wasn’t just making the tortillas for herself, she was making them for her co-workers who worked in the fields with her, for the neighbors, and others whom she knew were struggling to make ends meet. I would ask her, “why not get a little more sleep mom?” She would always say, “There’s no time to sleep. People are struggling to make ends meet and if we can help them it might make their day better. We must think of others Ceci not just ourselves.” It’s not as if we weren’t struggling ourselves. But, you would never know it. Well, she knew it, and I’m sure my brothers and sisters knew it, but as a young girl, with a loving family all around me I felt that I had everything I needed.

California established the Cesar Chavez holiday to honor Cesar and the work he’s done, but it’s not enough. When are the people going to rise again? When are elected officials going to pass legislation to protect farm workers from the same life threatening pesticides that took Doña’s life at the age of 63? We have warnings telling us to wash our fruits and vegetables. We have parents concerned about the pesticides that their children are exposed to sprayed on the fruit and vegetables that they eat. Why then why can we not be concerned about the men, women and children who are with them at times, who are exposed to the pesticides? When are we, like Doña Adela, and like Cesar Chavez going to have the “ganas” to demand for a change in the laws?

Cesar once said, “We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better and more just world for our children.” We have accomplished many things in the last fifty years or so. We have progressed greatly, but every year on Cesear Chavez day, we are reminded not only of how much we have accomplished, but how far we have to go. There are still people who toil in very harsh conditions. There are people who work very hard without receiving an honest day’s pay. And, there are people who work very hard and do not have access to health care. It is for these people who we remember Cesar Chavez and continue to fight for a better tomorrow.


Join the City of Davis Today at 11:00 at Central Park for Annual Cesar Chavez Day Celebration

The 13th annual Davis César Chávez Celebration will be held on Saturday, March 30 at 11:00 a.m. in Central Park, weather permitting, during the Davis Farmers Market. The free event is sponsored by the City of Davis Human Relations Commission. Community members, especially children and families, are invited to attend.

The City of Davis is pleased to present as Keynote Speaker Mr. Francisco J. Dominguez, a Sacramento-based documentary photographer, multi-media artist and historian. Mr. Dominguez has documented the plight of immigrants, homeless and farmworkers in the United States for the past 20 years, focusing on the lives of those who have been directly affected by US economic trade policies. He uses his work to bring attention to the injustices on the Mexico/US border.

The Chavez event will also feature live music, singing and dancing. Davis is once again fortunate to have its own Cesar Chavez Elementary Choir, which will perform several songs in both English and Spanish. The choir is under the direction of Ximena Jackson and has delighted the audience in years past. A new addition to the festivities this year will be Mariachi Puente, a mariachi group comprised of Davis junior high and high school students.

The event commemorates the anniversary of César Chávez’s birthday. Chavez spoke at rallies in Davis’ Central Park during the tomato growers’ strikes in the 1970’s. One Chavez rally in Davis on August 11, 1974 was reported to have drawn over 2,000 attendees.

The Chavez Celebration will be the focal point of the festivities held in Central Park which features one of California’s oldest continuous farmers markets. The Davis Farmers Market attracts thousands of visitors every Wednesday and Saturday and has been in operation since 1974. It was the first market in California to offer organic produce.

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22 thoughts on “Commemorating Cesar Chavez Day – Remembering Doña Adela”

  1. medwoman

    I want to thank Cecilia for her remembrance which brings to mind for me the many field workers that I saw while an intern in the county hospital in Fresno. These were extremely hardworking people whose conditions of employment placed them at extreme, and preventable risk.

    But as importantly, I want to thank Cecilia for her commitment to the principles of Dona Adela. Cecilia continues this tradition of caring by providing home made meals for the less fortunate of our community. For this she deserves our respect and our thanks as a community.

  2. Rich Rifkin

    What was César Chávez’s great accomplishment in life which makes him worthy of having not just a César Chávez Day, but also hundreds of schools (including one in Davis) named for him and even more major streets, including the former Army Street in San Francisco, named for him?

    I’m aware that in the early 1960s he was a co-founder of what later became the United Farm Workers. That’s hardly unique. There are hundreds of labor unions in the U.S., and no other union organizers have been honored anywhere near as much as Chávez has been.

    Even more, the UFW has never been a very successful union. The vast majority of farm laborers are not unionized, and the Teamsters actually represents more people in farm employment. And it’s questionable whether everyone in the UFW has benefitted from that association, as unionized farms have tended to mechanize in order to reduce labor load.

    I’m also aware that Chávez led a number of boycotts and marches. However, I know of no evidence that these publicity stunts ever led to real benefits for farm laborers as a class or even for members of the UFW.

    Since Chavez died, there are many more stories of how corrupt the UFW has become. A number of years ago, the LA Times wrote a multi-part exposé ([url]http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ufw8jan08,1,7202033.story?coll=la-headlines-california&track=mostemailedlink[/url]). [quote]A Times investigation has found, Chavez’s heirs run a web of tax-exempt organizations that exploit his legacy and invoke the harsh lives of farmworkers to raise millions of dollars in public and private money. The money does little to improve the lives of California farmworkers, who still struggle with the most basic health and housing needs and try to get by on seasonal, minimum-wage jobs. Most of the funds go to burnish the Chavez image and expand the family business, a multimillion-dollar enterprise with an annual payroll of $12 million that includes a dozen Chavez relatives. The UFW is the linchpin of the Farm Worker Movement, a network of a dozen tax-exempt organizations that do business with one another, enrich friends and family, and focus on projects far from the fields.[/quote] Additionally, Chávez personally has a number of things which call his character and leadership into question.

    Arguably the most important is Chávez’s role in pushing the Kennedy (and later the Johnson) Administration into ending the Bracero Program. The result of that policy decision was a great harm to farm workers, taking hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who could work legally in the United States and forcing them into becoming illegal aliens in order to live and work here. The interesting question is why Chávez pulled off that stunt to end the Bracero Program? Chávez was trying to reduce the farm labor pool, which would give him a lot more power. It never reduced the pool of farm laborers, though. It simply forced many to go underground. And then when illegals were working in the fields, Chávez had a policy of reporting them to immigration, so they would be deported back to Mexico.

    Chávez was also involved with a number of foreign dictators, including almost all of the really bad generalissimos in Africa (like Mugabe in Zimbabwe); and Chávez also travelled abroad and endorsed dictators in their rigged elections. Notably, Chávez did this for his close friend in the Phillipines, Ferdinand Marcos, a number of times. Some have said that the reason Chávez would do this was because those dictators were funneling him and members of his family cash. The behavior of his family after he died suggest that was probably true.

  3. wdf1

    Rifkin: [i]What was César Chávez’s great accomplishment in life which makes him worthy…?[/i]

    He brought a consciousness of self-worth to a people who until then were notable for generally lacking it in American society.

    If you have never lacked a personal sense of societal self-worth in your life due to cricumstances of your birth/language/culture/socio-economic status/lack of education, then it’s possible that the importance of this could be lost on you.

  4. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”He brought a consciousness of self-worth to a people who until then were notable for generally lacking it in American society.”[/i]

    There is simply no factual basis for this claim. It’s an urban myth, one which has been perpetuated by the vultures who have enriched themselves running the UFW. If you can prove this otherwise, I am open to the evidence you may have.

    Most importantly, César Chávez and Fred Ross brought real, identifiable harm to immigrant laborers by their selfish actions to end the Bracero Program. It’s impossible to say that harm they did increased self-worth to anyone. Just the opposite.

    I should add one other thing: Just because César Chávez was a very flawed character — he was — does not make him unworthy of adulation for his good works. All human beings have some flaws and make some mistakes. I am not disparaging him just because he did some bad things. I disparage César Chávez because his accomplishments are simply not there. He was no Martin Luther King, Jr. King also was flawed. He was a serial infidel. But that did not detract from his great works.

    César Chávez, by contrast, did not improve the United States by lifting up his people. He held down the Mexican workers for his own power. For god’s sake, he set up a spy network to report illegal aliens to the immigration authorities. Is that not bad enough to discredit him? His accomplishments are a lot closer to Al Sharpton’s than to a true Civil Rights leader.

  5. Rich Rifkin

    FWIW, someone just emailed me his explanation of why there is a César Chávez Day and Chávez schools, buildings and streets: “He’s the only Mexican-American famous enough to celebrate.”

    I had never considered that. I doubt, in this day and age, that is true, either. There have been a number of Mexican-Americans who are or were prominent in the arts, sciences, medicine, business and so on.

    Perhaps a good example, if we want to publicly honor someone who comes from that ethnic group, would be Arturo Moreno. He grew up very poor in Arizona and studied hard, graduated from college, rose to success in business (advertising), has employed thousands of people (of all races, I am sure), is now a multi-billionaire and owns a major league baseball team. I have never heard one bad thing about Mr. Moreno. He did not screw over hundreds of thousands of Braceros in order to increase his own power the way César Chávez did. Arturo Moreno never hob-nobbed with dictators or corruptly enriched his relatives off of the sweat of the poor the way César Chávez did.

    If the real goal is to celebrate a Mexican-American in order “to bring a consciousness of self-worth” to other Mexican-Americas–by the way I highly doubt your assertion that Mexicans lack self-worth is even remotely true–then put up someone like Arturo Moreno, who has actually done something in his life worthy of praise.

  6. Davis Progressive

    you’re failing to consider the fact that he inspired generations of people to seek better working conditions and a better life. the idea that he’s the only mexican-american worthy is sheer bigotry by whomever sent that to you.

  7. medwoman

    Rifs

    [quote]What was César Chávez’s great accomplishment in life which makes him worthy of having not just a César Chávez Day[/quote]

    I cannot answer this question directly based on his individual accomplishments, but I do have an answer for why he is honored. I believe that this has more to do with the association of his name with a struggle and a set of principles that are honored whether or not he “deserves” this recognition is, I am sure, a matter for debate.

    What is not a matter of debate is that what is being celebrated, besides the man himself, is the individual worth of a very hard working group of people who frequently labor under very unhealthy and sometimes dangerous conditions for often subsistence wages. When people have to fight to ensure that they have enough water, shelter and rest periods, those who have come to stand as leaders in this fight will be recognized.

    There is much precedent for this association of the name of an individual with a cause with which they became associated even if they fell far short of the idealization of the principle in their personal lives. Some historical examples would include many of our founding fathers who claimed equality for all men, but did not include
    any other than Caucasian men or women in their definition. More recently many leaders both political and moral are lauded for their contributions while being acknowledged as flawed as individuals. I would place Richard Nixon, Franklin Rooseveldt and Martin Luther King in this category for widely varying reasons.

    I do not think that Cesar Chavez day is so much a celebration of the man, who was doubtless flawed as all we are, but rather of the fight for dignity and a wage and working conditions commensurate with their
    contribution for all workers.

  8. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”you’re failing to consider [b]the fact[/b] that he inspired generations of people to seek better working conditions and a better life.”[/i]

    César Chávez did? When did he do that? Or maybe you just make up your facts?

    Were millions of people inspired by César Chávez when he turned the UFW into a spy organization for US immigration authorities in order to report and deport illegal aliens?*

    I find it quite ironic that so many people who today are trying to give legal status to millions of Mexicans who came here illegally to work would be inspired by the one man most responsible for changing our laws so that Mexican workers could not work legally in the United States.

    The adulation of César Chávez is so immune to facts it reminds me of a cult. And like a cult, its leaders put out false propaganda to blow up this false god, so that they can make more money for themselves. The sad truth about today’s UFW is that the only good it is doing is lining the pockets of the priests of the church of César Chávez.
    —————–
    *Ruben Navarrette, Jr. in the San Diego Union-Tribune: [quote]Despite the fact that Chávez is these days revered among Mexican-American activists, the labor leader in his day was no more tolerant of illegal immigration than the Arizona Minutemen are now. Worried that the hiring of illegal immigrants drove down wages, Chávez – according to numerous historical accounts – instructed union members to call the Immigration and Naturalization Service to report the presence of illegal immigrants in the fields and demand that the agency deport them. UFW officials were even known to picket INS offices to demand a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

    And in 1973, in one of the most disgraceful chapters in UFW history, the union set up a ‘wet line’ to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the United States. Under the guidance of Chávez’s cousin, Manuel, UFW members tried at first to convince the immigrants not to cross. When that didn’t work, they physically attacked the immigrants and left some bloody in the process. It happened in the same place that the Minutemen are now planning to gather: the Arizona-Mexico border.

    At the time, The Village Voice said that the UFW conducted a ‘campaign of random terror against anyone hapless enough to fall into its net.’[/quote]

  9. Rich Rifkin

    MEDIC: [i]”There is much precedent for this association of the name of an individual with a cause with which they became associated even if they fell far short of the idealization of the principle in their personal lives. Some historical examples would include many of our founding fathers who claimed equality for all men, but did not include any other than Caucasian men or women in their definition.”[/i]

    That’s a poor analogy. The problem comparing someone like Thomas Jefferson, who on the one hand wrote that “All Men Are Created Equal,” and at the same time owned hundreds of slaves, with a César Chávez is that Thomas Jefferson objectively also did many great things (as a legislator, statesman, scholar and president) which have held up historically, for hundreds of years, while César Chávez did nothing successful of any substance which redounded to the benefit of those he claimed he was trying to help.

    As I noted above, if César Chávez had a real record of accomplishment which really did some good, I could see honoring him, despite his personal flaws. I am not against honoring flawed men who are great.

    MLK, Jr. was terribly flawed in his personal life. But his public life was full of leadership and accomplishment. FDR was horribly wrong with regard to the Japanese-Americans and FDR’s economic policies during the Depression were mostly a total failure. But FDR’s record of accomplishments over his 12+ years as president (and earlier, as a governor and an assistant secretary of the Navy during WW1) plus his extraordinary achievements after suffering infantile paralysis outweigh his flaws. Even someone who was a horrible, disgusting human being like Henry Ford deserves honorable recognition for his great accomplishments in building cars and improving the lot of his workers.

  10. Rich Rifkin

    MEDICINALIST: [i]”There is much precedent for this association of the name of an individual … even if they fell far short of the idealization of the principle in their personal lives. … I would place Richard Nixon … in this category …”[/i]

    I’m sorry. I must be ignorant. Who holds up Nixon as an ideal representation of any principle? I know there are those who credit Nixon for a couple of foreign policy successes: most notably his China policy. But even those folks don’t idolize Nixon the way César Chávez is revered (by people who cannot seem to fathom the fact that Chávez was bad for farm workers and only really helped his comrades at the UFW get rich).

  11. Rich Rifkin

    [i]I do not think that Cesar Chavez Day is so much a celebration of the man … but rather of the fight for dignity and a wage and working conditions commensurate with their contribution for all workers.”[/i]

    If that’s the case, then there should not be a César Chávez Day, or a César Chávez School, or a César Chávez Boulevard or a César Chávez Building. Rather, those should be named for union leaders who succeeded in the tasks you consider important:

    Perhaps a John L. Lewis of the mine workers and the CIO; Samuel Gompers of the AFL; Walter Reuther (a Commie) of the UAW; Ronald Reagan of the Screen Actors; Phillip Murray of the United Steelworkers; Frances Perkins, the Sec. of Labor under FDR; or Cornelius P. Shea (a mob boss) of the Teamsters Union.

  12. Don Shor

    What was remarkable about Cesar Chavez was his skillful tactical approach to the problems facing our farmworkers. I don’t remember how old you are, Rich, but I am old enough to remember when the boycott of table grapes was a topic of everyday conversation among people who would have had no other reason to be aware of the horrible conditions under which farm laborers lived and worked.

    Organizing farm workers was a very difficult task and he worked at it full time for no pay. His wife had to support the family while he traveled and signed up the first members. It was something like five years from the first organizational meetings to the first successful contract with grape growers. In the interim they were beaten, and arrested, and bear in mind that he had basically no income through that period.

    The boycott of grapes was a tactical success, building awareness of working conditions and the need for legislation and regulation to protect farm workers. According to an obituary in the NY Times, 17 million Americans reportedly stopped buying table grapes. The lettuce boycott was less successful, but continued to raise public awareness of the conditions in the fields.

    He consistently advocated nonviolence, even in the face of extreme provocation from growers, local law enforcement agencies, and the Teamsters Union. When a strike was leading to violence and deaths, he called it off. In a pragmatic move, he tried to negotiate with the Teamsters.

    His alliance with prominent liberal politicians of the time, particularly Bobby Kennedy and later Jerry Brown, laid the groundwork for the passage of the landmark California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. He very effectively cultivated a political alliance with prominent Democratic leaders at a time when mainstream unions were very powerful and very leery of his organization.

    Because of his style of personal sacrifice and peaceful protest, he was very much in keeping with his time. As arguably the best-known leader from the Mexican-American community, honoring him is as logical as many of the other individuals that we give special recognition to. We don’t rate them on some achievement scale, or hold them to higher standards of personal ethics or the consistency of their political positions. It is a matter of how much they are respected by the community that they nominally represent. He is a symbol, an icon, for the causes he represented and the way he conducted his personal life, and for his long record of personal sacrifice as he pursued his goals.

    Thanks again to Cecilia for this lovely essay.

  13. medwoman

    Rifs

    Going back to Boas, anthropologists have pondered the significance of the number of words used within a language to describe the same object or person. There is some slight consensus that the number of words used is dependent upon the importance of the object to the speaker or writer.

    “Meds”
    “Gynodoc”
    “Medic”
    “Medicinalist”

    Hmmm…..I will know that I have arrived at the pinnacle of local columnist acknowledgement when you have referred to me by the highest compliment I have been payed in my career. This happened when I was working on the Tohono Ottam reservation and a much older, revered healer on the reservation, said to me, that like herself, I was a medicine woman.

  14. medwoman

    Rifs

    [quote]If that’s the case, then there should not be a César Chávez Day, or a César Chávez School, or a César Chávez Boulevard or a César Chávez Building[/quote]

    I disagree. I am sure that there were many, many other people who were instrumental in helping us to gain our independence from the British, but only a few names are widely recalled, some, such as Paul Revere, for acts that were not even attributable primarily to them. This is not uncommon. A name becomes attached to a given set of actions or principles and then is passed down historically regardless of the factual accuracy. Is this fair ?
    Of course not. But does it really matter ? I would argue that it does not. Heros are important to a culture, not because they are perfect, or necessarily even superior to the average citizen, but because they embody an easily memorable person who then serves as a representative for that particular set of desirable traits to which many will aspire. If this one individual’s name serves to inspire others to strive for their goals and to make positive contributions, is that really so harmful to our society? Does it really matter whether it is Chavez, or Gompers,
    Murray, or Perkins who is best remembered ? Or is it more important that there is some individual who can serve as the representative in our collective memory for what we can aspire to ? Our society has withstood many, many years of fictionally exaggerated tales spun around the bare threads of reality of the lives of Caucasian males. I am sure it will also survive embellishments surrounding the contributions of one notable Hispanic.

  15. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”What was remarkable about Cesar Chavez was his skillful tactical approach to the problems facing our farmworkers.”[/i]

    Really? Having ‘tactics’ makes someone merit all the glory that is now heaped upon César Chávez?

    [i]”I don’t remember how old you are, Rich …”[/i]

    Just turned 49.

    [i]”… but I am old enough to remember when the boycott of table grapes was a topic of everyday conversation among people who would have had no other reason to be aware of the horrible conditions under which farm laborers lived and worked.”[/i]

    I remember the grape boycott. It failed. It never affected the price of table grapes. If it has succeeded, the price should have fallen as demand dipped.

    [i]”Organizing farm workers was a very difficult task and he worked at it full time for no pay.”[/i]

    You are mistaken, Don. Chávez got a lot of money, indirectly, through his work at the UFW. Many of his family members and unrelated friends were extremely highly paid (and still are) in official UFW jobs. They funnelled money back to Chávez. This has all been well documented. You ought to read that LA Times series I linked to above.

    [i]”His wife had to support the family while he traveled and signed up the first members.”[/i]

    Perhaps that was the case in the very beginning. However, Chávez was not, in fact, the primary organizer in the beginning. He was the face of the franchise. The man behind the man was a highly accomplished (and later very wealthy) labor leader named Fred Ross. Fred’s brother, Bob Ross, was a very good social sciences/government teacher at Davis High School.

    [i]”It was something like five years from the first organizational meetings to the first successful contract with grape growers. In the interim they were beaten, and arrested, and bear in mind that he had basically no income through that period.”[/i]

    Even if all of that were true, it would not make César Chávez unique among labor leaders. There are plenty of people who have similar stories.

    [i]”The boycott of grapes was a tactical success, building awareness of working conditions and the need for legislation and regulation to protect farm workers.”[/i]

    I don’t buy that. The grape boycott failed miserably because consumers kept buying and eating table grapes at the same rate.

    What was important was that from 1964 to 1980, there was a national shift to the left in American politics which created the right political environment for more labor laws like the ones you point to. These sorts of changes affected every type of work, not just farm labor. And, I suspect, they did far more for non-farm labor than they did for farm laborers.

    Insofar as these changes were made in California law, that too is a reflection of the move to the left in our politics after Ronald Reagan left Sacramento and the legislature became permanently liberal and Democratic. Had there never been a César Chávez, these labor law changes were going to happen.

    [i]”The lettuce boycott was less successful, but continued to raise public awareness of the conditions in the fields.”[/i]

    I’d like to see some survey evidence which shows, right now, how much “awareness” Americans have about “conditions in the field.” These sorts of claims sound more mythical than evidentiary.

  16. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”He consistently advocated nonviolence, even in the face of extreme provocation from growers, local law enforcement agencies, and the Teamsters Union.”[/i]

    This is a terrible point you are making. No matter what César Chávez said, his actions were not so non-violent. You really need to look into the attacks that the UFW engaged in, while Chávez was running it, against migrant Mexican farm laborers.

    [i]”His alliance with prominent liberal politicians of the time, particularly Bobby Kennedy and later Jerry Brown, laid the groundwork for the passage of the landmark California Agricultural Labor Relations Act.”[/i]

    No, the move to the left in California laid that groundwork. Had we elected conservatives to the legislature or had a governor like we had in Reagan, the laws would not have changed. César Chávez was not any sort of key in changing the labor laws. And they changed for all workers in that period, not just for farm workers.

    The person you need to look into more is Bobby Kennedy. He got a lot of positive press near the very end of his life when he allied himself with Chávez. But Kennedy had a much longer life history of being violently anti-union, going back to his time when Bobby Kennedy was a chief aide for Sen. Joseph McCarthy, all the way to his years fighting against the Teamsters as AG.

    In his latest book on LBJ, Robert Caro said something interesting about how Bobby Kennedy changed after his brother John was assassinated. Up to that point, Bobby Kennedy, much like his father, Joe, was a man of extreme hatred. (Unlike his father, Bobby was never an anti-Semite.) But the murder of JFK altered the way Bobby looked at the world, and he gave up all of his hatreds, except for one. To his dying day, Bobby hated LBJ with all the fury he could muster. (Among the many things that Bobby hated about LBJ was that, in 1960, when LBJ tried to win the Democratic nomination for president, he disparaged Joe Kennedy as an isolationist and a Hitler appeaser. Never mind that both of those claims were true.)

    [i]”As arguably the best-known leader from the Mexican-American community, honoring him is as logical as many of the other individuals that we give special recognition to.”[/i]

    Yet his record of failure–and of outright harming Mexican farm laborers–makes him an abysmal choice for this ‘special recognition.’ He is famous. I will grant you that. But there are now plenty of other great Mexican-Americans who have real accomplishments and, unlike César Chávez, were not out to aggrandize themselves at the expense of peasants.

    There simply is no good excuse for what Chávez did with regard to the Bracero Program or his long-time advocacy of reporting illegal aliens to the INS and having them kicked out of the country because they wanted to work in the fields.

  17. Don Shor

    [i]I remember the grape boycott. It failed.[/i]

    No, it succeeded. It got the growers to sign agreements with the UFW.

    [i] You are mistaken, Don. Chávez got a lot of money, indirectly, through his work at the UFW/[/i]
    During the period it was getting organized?

    [i] I don’t buy that. The grape boycott failed miserably because consumers kept buying and eating table grapes at the same rate.[/i]

    Not true.

    [i] unlike César Chávez, were not out to aggrandize themselves at the expense of peasants.[/i]

    Very few people believe that Chavez was out to “aggrandize” himself, and you probably should stop using terms like “peasants.”

    [i] There simply is no good excuse for what Chávez did with regard to the Bracero Program[/i]

    Your enthusiasm for the Bracero program is just bizarre. It was rife with abuse and exploitation. And your hostility toward Cesar Chavez, to the point that you are on a two-day multi-thousand-word rant against him, is even more bizarre. I seriously wonder sometimes what your problem is on ethnic and racial issues. Being provocative seems to be an end in itself for you.

  18. J.R.

    Rifkin has presented some persuasive facts, of which I was not aware. They indicate Cesar Chavez does not deserve a state holiday. Yet the Chavez followers are unconvinced. Much like evolution deniers, they do not let facts affect what is basically a religious belief in left wing ideology. This religious embrace of saviors such as Chavez was famously remarked upon by the astute social observer Dennis Prager:

    [url]http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/300669/left-s-misplaced-concern-dennis-prager#[/url]

    No amount of argument, fact or discussion will disrupt such a religiously held belief.

  19. wdf1

    J.R.: [i]Rifkin has presented some persuasive facts, of which I was not aware. They indicate Cesar Chavez does not deserve a state holiday. Yet the Chavez followers are unconvinced. Much like evolution deniers, they do not let facts affect what is basically a religious belief in left wing ideology. This religious embrace of saviors such as Chavez was famously remarked upon by the astute social observer Dennis Prager:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/…is-prager#

    No amount of argument, fact or discussion will disrupt such a religiously held belief.[/i]

    Why does it matter so much to you and Rifkin to be “right” about this particular issue? Is it really all about establishing some bigger argument that certain political adversaries are inferior in some way?

    Are you also knocking religion, too?

  20. J.R.

    wdf1

    I’m not knocking religion, but rather pointing out that the support of Chavez has a religious flavor.

    As to your other point, I’m not quite getting who you think is inferior.

  21. Don Shor

    I explained why people respect Chavez. There is nothing religious about that. Dennis Prager is a radical theo-con. Conservatives never liked Chavez, and never will.
    Most of what Rich posted is arguable, but I think we’re done here.

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