Chavez passed away in 1993, but his legacy is honored each year on his birthday on March 31. Cesar Chavez Day is officially recognized in many states.
Even though it’s not a federal holiday, President Obama has declared it a day for “service and community, as well as education.” It was also commemorated in 2014 with the publication of a documentary movie, “Cesar Chavez.”
In celebration of the birthday of Chavez, Here are ten fascinating things you didn’t be aware of about Chavez:
1. He was the inspiration behind Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” line.
During a fast of 25 days in the year 1972, Chavez, along with Huerta, created the motto “Si Se Puede,” Spanish for “Yes, it’s possible.” The UFW adopted it as its official motto and also an anthem for Latino civil rights generally and later inspired the slogan “Yes you can” for President Obama’s campaign for the 2008 presidential election.
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2. A grandchild of the family is a professional golfer.
Chavez, along with his wife Helen Fabela, had eight children as well as 31 grandchildren. One of their children plays professional golfer Sam Chavez, who plays on the PGA Tour.
3. A U.S. Navy cargo ship is named for him.
A variety of American streets, including schools and an entire nationwide landmark, are named in honor of Cesar Chavez. He also spent two years serving in the U.S. Navy, and since the Lewis and Clark-class cargo vessels are named in honor of “American pioneers and visionaries,” they were named after him. USNS Cesar Chavez first appeared in the year 2011.
4. He was a student at 38 schools before he reached 8th grade.
As farm workers who were migrants, Chavez’s family was often moved as he grew up. This meant Chavez was forced to attend school 38 times before leaving to provide for his parents. However, despite his limited education, Chavez later advocated education to improve the social condition.
5. He had a broader perception of immigration.
Chavez has been against illegal immigration since the inception of UFW in the early days, believing that employers could employ undocumented workers to break strike agreements and would erode the wages of legally employed workers. However, when public opinion regarding amnesty fluctuated over time, Chavez loosened his position.
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6. He lost his support after having a meeting with the dictator.
Chavez was widely criticized for accepting an invitation for a trip to Manila from Ferdinand Marcos, a 20-year president of the Philippines who was accused of human rights abuses and corruption. Chavez was hoping to gain support from Filipino-American farm workers. However, he also endorsed the dictatorship. He ended up losing some of his allies.
7. He was intrigued by the anti-drug popular Synanon.
In his later years, Chavez learned about modern management methods as well as group dynamics, such as the bizarre drug rehabilitation program “alternative living community” and a cult of religion called Synanon. The nature of his involvement isn’t fully understood; however, Synanon was shut down in the mid-90s. However, according to the biographer, Miriam Paiwel Chavez’s involvement in the cult triggered more tension within UFW.
8. He turned down an offer at JFK.
Former President John F. Kennedy reportedly suggested in 1962 that he establish Chavez as the head of the Peace Corps for part of Latin America, but Chavez refused to accept the offer so that he could continue his efforts to organize farmers. The year in which he, along with Huerta, formed The National Farm Workers Association.
9. The man fasted 36 straight days at the age of 61 in protest against pesticides.
Under Chavez under Chavez, the UFW worked to negotiate union contracts that banned using DDT, required protection for workers to limit exposure to other pesticides, and stopped spraying when workers were working in the fields. Chavez also fasted for 36 consecutive days in the year 1988 to protest the use of pesticides on grapes.
10. It was said that he was a vegetarian.
“I decided to go vegetarian after I realized that animals feel scared of cold, hungry, and miserable like we do,” Chavez once said. “I am deeply concerned about being a vegetarian and animals in general. My dog Boycott led me to question the rights of human beings to feed animals.”