National Park Site the First to Honor a Latino American
Statement by National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan
“The National Parks Conservation Association commends President Obama for recognizing the significance of César Chávez’s life and work by using his power through the Antiquities Act to designate the César E. Chávez National Monument. This monument is the 398th site included in our National Park System, and the first to recognize the work of a contemporary Latino American. Adding the César E. Chávez National Monument to our National Park System comes at a fitting time, as Americans celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
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“President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the National Park Service’s Call to Action report and the National Parks Second Century Commission report all called for advancing and diversifying our country’s national parks, to protect and honor our heritage. The César E. Chávez National Monument is a tremendous step forward in realizing this shared goal. President Obama’s Antiquities Act designation also comes at a pivotal time, as we look to the 2016 centennial celebration of the National Park Service. It is essential that our National Park System continues to evolve and tell the many stories of our nation’s history and cultural heritage. National park visitors ranging from local school children to international travelers will now have the opportunity to learn and reflect on Cesar Chavez’s important work and the legacy that he left.
“Today’s Antiquities Act proclamation will also ensure that the economic benefits of national parks – job creation, heritage tourism, education, tax credits, and preservation initiatives – will support communities in California’s Central Valley and beyond. In fact, according to the National Park Service, every dollar invested in national parks generates about $10 in return to local communities.”
“We call upon Congress to preserve the complete story of César Chávez and the farmworkers movement for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. We urge the passage of legislation to add other important César Chávez historic sites to the National Park System, including 40 Acres and the Filipino Hall in Delano, California, the 1966 Delano to Sacramento March Route, and the Santa Rita Center in Phoenix, Arizona, as recommended in the National Park Service’s Special Resources Study that was requested through a bipartisan vote by Congress.”
Background: César Chávez is recognized as one of the most important labor and human rights leaders in the United States during the twentieth century because of his leadership of the farmworkers movement in the 1960s. In alliance with thousands of farmworkers and their supporters, Chavez and Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA) in 1962, the first agricultural labor union in the nation. As president of the UFWA, Chavez steered the union through a series of unprecedented victories, including contracts that covered more than 100,000 farmworkers; raised wages, funded health care and pension plans; mandated the provision of drinking water and restroom facilities in the fields; regulated the use of pesticides in the fields; and established a fund for community service projects. Chavez’s advocacy helped secure the passage of the first law in the U.S. that specifically recognized farmworkers’ rights to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining.
The work that Chavez and his allies led inspired generations of Americans, and is recognized as one of most successful grassroots movements in our nation. In 2007 the US. Congress, in a bipartisan vote, requested that Ithe National Park Service develop a Special Resources Study on the feasibility of creating a Cesar Chavez park unit. In 2011 the NPS released a Special Resource Study that considered inclusion in the national park system of locations significant to César Chávez’s life and the farmworker movement. The study determined that five locations, including the site of the new César E. Chávez National Monument, the National Chavez Center at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, were of national significance, and found there is a need for a national park site dedicated to César Chávez.
Cesar Chavez established the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, nestled in the Tehachapi Mountains of Kern County, in 1972. “Our Lady, Queen of Peace” in English, the site is commonly referred to as La Paz. As the headquarters of the UFW, La Paz is of great historic significance for its role in the 20th century labor, civil rights, Chicano, and environmental movements, and for its association with Chavez. The site contains 26 historic buildings and structures that include a visitor center with Chavez’s preserved office and library, as well as the César Chávez Memorial Garden and burial site.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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