Reno woman won’t forget Cesar Chavez
By Geralda Miller

Reno Gazette-Journal
3/30/2005 11:53 p.m

Reno resident Maria Cecilia Zamora says one of her most unforgettable moments was meeting Cesar Chavez after he had marched all day for the rights of migrant farm workers.

Reno resident Maria Cecilia Zamora poses March 28. She met Cesar Chavez about 40 years ago.
(Marilyn Newton/RGJ photo)

The Cesar Chavez celebration will be tonight at 6 at the Reno Hilton Crystal Ballroom. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program begins at 6 p.m.

It was about 40 years ago when a much younger, more vigorous woman was preparing meals for the hundreds of people marching and picketing in California.

"I would sit down next to him sometimes, bring him food," the 72-year-old said.

"I told him that it was an honor to have met him and how grateful I was. I even said one time that I could die happily now after I had met him."

Before her memories begin to fade, Zamora said she wants more young people in Reno to know about how Chavez and the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee successfully fought for union contracts for the grape and lettuce workers.

Chavez died April 23, 1993, near Yuma, Ariz.

"I’d like to get very involved on a one-to-one basis with them and try to tell the truths and experiences that I had," said Zamora, who moved to Reno two years ago from Redwood City, Calif.

"I would like to go to the schools. I would like to have a Cesar Chavez young people’s day."

Currently, little is done in Reno to honor Chavez.

However, Northern Nevadans will celebrate Chavez’ birthday tonight at 6 p.m. at the Reno Hilton Crystal Ballroom.

He was born March 31, 1927.

Zamora said she plans to attend and bring her memorabilia, including a flag with the Aztec eagle emblem in the middle.

She will tell some of her stories of travel around the western states, working for something she was so passionate about.

"There was a lot of music, a lot of stars, a lot of banners, a lot of supporters kept coming," she said of the movement during the late ’60s.

"I was involved in the grape strike. I was passing out leaflets a lot in front of Safeway."

She also would see if the grocery stores were selling union grapes and lettuce.

"So the ones that I didn’t see union lettuce or grapes I would go and talk to the managers," Zamora said.

"And I would tell them that we are boycotting, that we need their support."

At 4 feet 11 inches tall, Zamora always stood on the right during big marches for a better view.

"We had well known people who came, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King," she said.
"We would march and I could see them up front."

VETERANS — Left to right, Maria Zamora, Librado "Lee" Chávez and Tony Mayorga. Lee Chávez holds up a United Farm Workers of America flag signed by his late brother. The flag is part of Ms. Zamora's collection of Chávez/UFWA memorabilia which she displayed at the 2004 Chávez Celebration. Ms. Zamora marched with César Chávez in the 1960's and cooked for the multitudes as they trekked across California. She has been invited to the 2014 event, as has the Chávez which is always represented. Tony Mayorga is President of Laborers' Union Local 169, a founding sponsor of the celebration. [UPDATE: Librado Chávez and a dozen family members attended the 2008-2011 events. They were unable to attend in 2012 or 2013 due to the illness of Mrs.Chávez. We look forward to seeing them in 2014 as Mrs. Mrs.Chávez's health has improved. ]

The single mother of three boys said she made volunteering a family affair.

The boys pitched in making banners, hauling truckloads of food, or turning hundred of tortillas, she said.

"They did not like it very well at the time," she said. "But I would say, ‘We all have to do it.’ "

Yet Zamora said she still did not realize the importance of what she was involved in.

But now she knows.

"It was something great," she said. "There are a lot of things I’ve probably forgotten already."

Ramon Chavez, 36, did not participate in the farmworkers movement but said he knows of his uncle’s achievements.

His father, Librado Chavez, will attend tonight’s activities at the Hilton, he said.

"We’re very proud that others have come to recognize his hard work and his efforts," the Reno resident said.

"We’re really excited that more and more places are recognizing Cesar Chavez Day."

Zamora and Chavez said the struggle continues.

"I believe his principles is always a continuing battle," Chavez said.

"There always has to be someone out there fighting for the oppressed, for those who are not getting the recognition."

Copyright © 2005 The Reno Gazette-Journal




Nevada César Chávez Day Archives

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Reno César Chávez Day XI
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Reno César Chávez Day III
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Reno César Chávez Day II
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Reno César Chávez Day I
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