Son of Farm Worker Leader Cesar Chavez Has Message for Everyone Fighting Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Never lose faith in the ability of the least powerful to take on the most powerful and win.
That’s the message Paul Chavez has for all those discouraged by Trump’s never ending barrage of anti-immigrant attacks. It’s a lesson he learned from his father, Cesar Chavez.
Cesar helmed a farm worker movement that, starting in the mid-1960s, transformed the agricultural fields of California through strikes and boycotts.
The movement resulted in some of the first union contracts in the agricultural industry in the nation.
“That was the faith that he had in people, in farm workers,” Paul reflected. “He got them to believe they could take on the big, powerful industry and prevail.”
Paul shared the lesson at LUPE’s biennial gala, October 12th, in Edinburg.
Cesar Chavez co-founded the United Farm Workers. He also co-founded LUPE with Dolores Huerta.
The transformation of the fields first required farm workers to transform themselves.
Besides the tireless organizing in the fields and in the homes of workers across the state, Paul emphasized that Cesar challenged workers to do more than they believed they could do. If they wanted to be a bookkeeper, he encouraged them to be an accountant. If they were a nurse, he would encourage them to become a doctor. One young paralegal, the son of farm workers, became a lawyer at Cesar’s urging. He then became the union’s general council and later went on to be nominated to California’s superior court. In this way, he encouraged people to follow dreams that they didn’t even know they had.
Cesar’s strategy was simple yet required a deep belief in the capabilities of his fellow workers: if you could train members and their sons and daughters to sit across the table from powerful growers, you would not only win contracts now but change lives forever.
“We became comfortable sitting across the table representing workers demanding rights.”
Paul recognized that his father had more faith in him than Paul had in himself.
“And then it finally dawned on me after all these years that what I thought was the love that a father has for a child, it dawned on me, it occurred to me that it was the love and the faith that my father had for an entire people to rise up and to organize and to improve their lives.”
In doing so, he inspired thousands of people to political and social activism, many who had never set a foot in the fields.
“He never gave up despite the odds”
“I think it was the measure of his greatness that he inspired hope,” Paul said. “He never gave up despite the odds. That’s why he succeeded at organizing farm workers where others failed.”
Paul reflected on the hostile climate of today, saying it is as hostile as any his father confronted. “The anti-immigrant prejudice is out there, the bigotry, the attacks on those rights and guarantees we won long ago are all under assault.”
That’s why he believes his father’s lessons are as relevant now as ever.
While undocumented immigrants and newly arriving refugees and asylum seekers may be some of the most vulnerable in our society, Cesar and the movement he inspired demonstrate that even the most vulnerable have the power to rise up and take on the powerful corporations and right-wing politicians mounting attacks against them.
“And so for me the lesson is clear, is that victory is ours when we persist, that victory is ours when we resist, and that victory is ours when we refuse to give up. And it was that final lesson from my dad that I think is especially relevant today when so many people feel under attack and despair can easily set in.”
LUPE is undeterred in our commitment to organizing immigrants and border residents to win border policies that allow families to remain together and all border residents to thrive.