Research Resources

Cesar Chavez – Mexican American Hero

Cesario Estrada Chavez was born on March 31 in 1927.  His family lived on a farm in Yuma, Arizona.  The family was not wealthy, but they lived comfortably.  Cesario grew up speaking Spanish until he went to school in 1933.  He was forced to change his name to Cesar and to speak only in English.  A few years later, Cesar’s grandmother died and the family property was sold to pay the debts.  Cesar and his family moved to California to live the life of migrant workers.


Migrant workers would move around to different farms wherever there was work.  As different crops were ready for harvest, the migrant workers would move to the farms that needed help.  This life was quite difficult and it was especially hard for the children in school to be continually moving from place to place.  When Cesar graduated middle school, he quit school and started working with his family on the farms.


A few years later, Cesar joined the Navy.  When he finished his obligation, he got married and started working again in manual labor positions.  During this time, he started volunteering with the Community Service Organization.  He helped register the migrant workers to vote.  He soon was elected the director of the CSO in 1959.


Cesar soon left the CSO to form a new organization, the NFWA (National Farm Workers of America).  This group focused on helping the farmworkers who were facing difficult working conditions.  The group helped offer an insurance program, a credit union, and even a newspaper.  If farmworkers were having problems, they would come to the NFWA for help.  Cesar Chavez and his organization would talk to the people in charge to advocate for better working conditions. If that didn’t work, they would often stage protests or boycotts to encourage the owners of the farms to make changes.


It didn’t take long for Cesar to realize that it wasn’t only the Mexican farmworkers who were facing trouble.  He soon joined forces with another organization to form the UFW (United Farm Workers).  This organization is still in existence today and works to ensure good working conditions for all farm workers.


Throughout his life, Cesar Chavez and his organizations worked to get better wages and living conditions for farmworkers.  One of his most famous sayings is:  Si se puede – yes, we can!  This was often chanted during the marches, pickets, and demonstrations asking for better conditions. Cesar died in his sleep of natural causes in April of 1993.  At the time he was testifying in court for yet another case of mistreatment.  He was a hard worker, helping people until the very day that he died.


After his death, Cesar Chavez was awarded the Presidental Medal of Honor and he was admitted into the California Hall of Fame.  March 31 has been proclaimed as Cesar Chavez Day.  It is a day to remember his contributions to our country.

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