Continuing the Legacy of César E. Chávez through the Power of Community
By: Valerie Delgadillo
“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community — and this nation.” — César E. Chávez
Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, who is commemorated every year on Cesar Chavez Day, March 31st, believed deeply in the power of community. He fought for “la causa,” the fight for equal rights and improved working conditions for farm workers. Along with Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later went on to become the United Farm Workers (UFW) Labor Union. Today, I have the honor of continuing his legacy through my work with the UFW Foundation, defending the rights of farm workers and advocating for equitable policies across the country.
In 2019, I joined the movement in earnest upon the start of my internship at the César E. Chávez National Monument through Hispanic Access’ MANO Project program at the time, LHIP, the Latino Heritage Internship Program with the National Park System. As an intern, not only did I gain deeper knowledge of the Chicano movement and Cesar Chavez’s activism, but I was able to use my graphic design skills to accessibly and creatively depict the history of the monument through visual storytelling. Fast forward to today, I am the Digital Media Coordinator for the UFW Foundation.
Beyond teaching its visitors the history that inspired its creation, the national monument uplifts a seldomly told story important to America’s labor history and elevates non-Anglo leaders that were influential in shaping the nation. Herein lies the importance of preserving and protecting places such as these that speak of America’s Latino history and cultural heritage–they honor our leaders by amplifying their voices.
Latino history is American history. For too long, the telling of history has sidelined immigrant cultures and centered the stories of white leaders. In particular, the stories of arguably the most essential workers in this country are continuously pushed to the side and their impact and struggles remain unspoken. Farm workers are responsible for maintaining the places our food comes from–they grow the food we all eat and rely on to sustain our health. Despite this fact, farmworkers are and have been treated poorly. Wages stay low while workers are expected to perform in unsafe conditions, even as conditions worsen due to the devastating effects of rising temperatures and climate change. The broad acceptance of these conditions angers me and fuels my motivation to continue the legacy of Cesar Chavez by working towards obtaining equitable rights for farm workers. Uplifting Latino stories and the vital role of farm workers in creating and sustaining our nation aids.
I design bilingual informational materials, including mobile apps that help farm workers obtain access to legal services and community resources. Receiving this assistance breaks down barriers that exist in non-native English-speaking immigrant communities face when it comes to seeking accurate information and legal assistance. What is most detrimental to farm workers and their families is a lack of public understanding of the issues. Personal biases and misinformation contribute to the creation of silence where there could be actual stories and the telling of the long American history of our farm working communities.
October 8th marked the 10th Anniversary of the César E. Chávez National Monument, and this March 31st will be the 10th anniversary of President Obama’s proclamation of Cesar Chavez Day. The work of people, my fellow members and other advocates remains instrumental in the movement that inspired Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta’s activism. As things have changed over the years, the rise and role of technology facilitates the work by providing a platform for these stories that have existed in a vacuum of sorts for far too long. With the monument and the work of the movement and fellow advocates, our community’s voice is strengthened, no longer silent and our history no longer set aside.
Valerie Delgadillo is a graphic designer and digital media coordinator for the United Farm Workers Foundation, leading community advancement, health, and safety outreach services.