Caser Chavez: Leader or Migrant Worker?
“Non-violence really rest on the reservoir that you have to create in yourself of patience, not of being patient with the problems, but being patient with yourself to do the hard work.”
Cesar Chavez Essay
What makes a society look at a man as a leader? Is it theOrder now
work that he does to help his community or is it the struggle
they endure during their lifetime? Cesar Chavez was born into a
migrant family and became one of the most recognized leaders for
migrant workers. From his early days of working in the fields to
his days in the US Navy and to his early days as a rights
activist, Cesar Chavez has fought to have equal rights for
Mexican-American migrant field workers.
One night in the 1880’s, a man named Cesario Chavez
crossed the border from Chihuahua, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas. He
was fleeing the hardships of his homeland to make a better life
in the United States for his family.
Decades later, his grandson,
Cesar Chavez, would make a stand in the fields of California to
fight for a better life for all farm workers. Cesario and his
wife Dorotea worked very hard. Their children married and had
children. The whole family lived in the Arizona desert near the
town of Yuma and worked as farmers. One of Cesario’s sons,
Librado, married Juana Estrada, a woman who had also come from
Chihuahua. Together they had six children.
Cesar, was born in
1927, he was their second child and the eldest son. Librado
Chavez was a hardworking man, and he prospered. In addition to
farming, he operated a general store and was elected the local
postmaster. "I had more happy moments as a child than unhappy
moments," Chavez later recalled. Librado was good to his
children, he even made their toys, but he was too busy to spend
much time with them. "My mom kept the family together," Chavez
When Cesar was ten years old, disaster struck. Librado made
a business deal with a neighbor who did not keep his part of the
bargain. In the end, the Chavez family lost their farm and all
their belongings. It was 1937, the period following the Stock
Market crash, the country had not yet recovered from the Great
Depression. There were very few jobs, and many people were
homeless. To make matters worse, the Southwest was experiencing
severe droughts at this time.
By 1938, the Chavez family had
joined some 300,000 migrant workers who followed the crops to
California. Migrant workers would travel all over the state,
picking whatever was in season for the farm owners. The migrant
workers had no permanent homes. They lived in dingy overcrowded
family, most of them were of Mexican descent. quarters, without
bathrooms, electricity, or running water. Sometimes, they lived
in the pickup trucks in which they traveled.
Like Chavez, going
to school wasn’t easy for the children of the migrant workers,
since they were always on the move. Cesar and his siblings
attended more than thirty schools. Many times, their teachers
were neither friendly or helpful. The teachers of migrant
children often felt that since these children would soon move on
to other farms in other towns, teaching them wasn’t worth the
effort. Some of these teachers were even prejudiced against
Spanish-speaking students. "When we spoke Spanish," Chavez
remembers, "the teacher swooped down on us.
I remember the ruler
whistling through the air as its edge came down sharply across my
knuckles. It really hurt. Even out in the playground, speaking
Spanish brought punishment." He remembers hating school. "It
wasn’t the learning I hated, but the conflicts,; he recalls.
Despite all his difficulties in school, Cesar managed to graduate
from the eighth grade.
For migrant children in those days,
graduation was an unusual occurrence.
Chavez had worked part-time in the fields while he was in
school. After graduation he began to work full-time. He preferred
working in the vineyards because grape pickers generally stayed
in the same place for a longer time. He kept noticing that the
labor contractors and the landowners exploited the workers. He
tried reasoning with the farm owners about higher pay and better