Fifty years ago this Saturday, March 31, on his 35th birthday, César Chávez made the decision to dedicate his life to organizing America’s farm workers when he quit his job and moved his family to Delano, California. Today he is recognized as one of the country’s most important Latino figures and founder of what is now the United Farm Workers of America.
Chávez recognized the injustices suffered by those working to provide food to so many Americans and decided to take action. With other important figures, including Dolores Huerta, he spent the rest of his life peacefully promoting rights for farm workers, which led to improved working conditions and better lives for thousands of Latinos and other minority groups throughout the United States.
There is now an opportunity for legislation to be introduced that would establish a national park unit dedicated to the legacy of César Chávez. The ideal National Park Service unit would include places such as 40 Acres, in Delano, California, which was once headquarters for the United Farmworkers; and “La Paz,” near Keene, California, where Chávez worked and lived for more than 30 years and is now the current home of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.
“For my father, La Paz was a personal refuge from bitter struggles in agricultural valleys and big cities, a spiritual harbor where he recharged batteries, drew fresh inspiration, and prepared for the battles ahead,” says Paul F. Chávez, César Chávez’s middle son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. “It was a place where many dedicated people spent years of their lives working with César Chávez for social justice, inspiring generations of Americans from all walks of life who never worked on a farm to social and political activism.”
Last fall, the National Park Service released a draft special resource study which finds five locations in California and Arizona to be of national significance, including 40 Acres and La Paz. The study concludes that there is a need for Park Service management of a Chávez unit, and that the addition of a unit dedicated to Chávez is both feasible and suitable.
Chávez has been an inspiration to generations of Americans. Adding a national park unit to honor his legacy would preserve these important places and also help better diversify our National Park System and reflect the makeup of our country. The national parks strive to reflect the richness of American history and culture, yet not one of the 397 park units honors the legacy of an individual contemporary Latino.