Estrada Chávez was born March
1927, on a small farm near Yuma, Arizona that his grandfather
homesteaded in the 1880's. At age 10, life began as a migrant
farm worker when his father lost the land during the Depression.
thousands of displaced families, the Chávez
family migrated throughout the Southwest, laboring in fields and
vineyards. César left school after the eighth grade to
help support his family.
In 1952, César was laboring in apricot orchards outside
San Jose when he met Fred Ross, an organizer for the Community
Service Organization, a barrio-based self-help group. Within several
months, Cesar was a full-time organizer with CSO, coordinating
voter registration drives and battling racial and economic discrimination
in California and Arizona.
In 1962, César
moved his wife and eight children to Delano, California where
he founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA).
In September of 1965, César's NFWA, with 1200 member families,
joined an AFL-CIO sponsored union in a strike against major Delano
area table and wine grape growers forging national support of
unions, church groups, students, minorities, and consumers. The
two unions merged in 1966 to form the United Farm Workers.
César called for a worldwide grape boycott and by 1975
over 17 million American adults were honoring the grape boycott.
It forced growers to support Governor Jerry Brown's collective
bargaining law for farm workers, the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations
From the beginning,
César Chávez adhered
to the principals of non-violence practiced by Mohandas K. Gandhi
and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1965, César conducted
a 25-day fast to reaffirm the UFW's commitment to non-violence.
The late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, D-NY, flew to Delano to be
with him when he ended the fast.
In 1991, César received the Aguila Azteca (The Aztec Eagle),
Mexico's highest award presented to people of Mexican heritage
who have made major contributions outside of Mexico.
César Chávez passed
away on April 23, 1993, at the age of 66. More than 40,000 people
participated in his funeral at Delano. He is laid to rest at La
Paz in a rose garden at the foot of the hill he often climbed
to watch the sun rise.
On August 8, 1994, César E. Chávez
became the second Mexican American to receive the Presidential
Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
The award was presented posthumously by President Bill Clinton.