Latino Learning Center, Houston, Texas
By: Arturo V. Ramirez
April 1, 2000
I am honored to have been selected as one ---
out of the so many you could have chosen -- to say a few words on this historic
occasion. I stand humbly before you as just one common person - out of millions
--- who was profoundly and eternally touched by Cesar Chavez, and who was
forever changed and influenced by his mighty spirit --- so deeply influenced
that to this day I still boycott grapes!
What can I say about Cesar Chavez that has not
already been said about him - especially by people with higher rank than I have
- and-perhaps with a lot more eloquence than I could deliver. All I can do is share with you what you already know - or should know - of his
incomparable legacy, his lasting achievements and his bold vision - through the
prism of my own experiences in life and my perceptions of what Cesar Chavez
represents to us.
As an organizer of "la raza,"
nosotros, la pleve, los de abajo, el pueblo hispano, in this country, Cesar
Chavez has no equal.
As a man of commitment to la causa, Chavez has
no equal. As a man of sacrifice, a
man of absolute unselfishness, Chavez has no equal.
As a Hispanic / Latino leader in this country,
Chavez has no equal.
Let it be written that Cesar Chavez was the
greatest Hispanic / Latino leader - without exception - this country has ever
Let it be known, let it be
etched in stone that Cesar Chavez is unequivocally among the greatest
"American" leaders of the 20th century.
We look up to him as a hero.
Yet he never sought to be one, or saw himself as a hero. A soldier, a warrior,
in both war and civil strife, yes, but not a hero. "We" see him as a
hero because we respect the unparalleled valor we witnessed in the actions he
undertook, the marches he led, and the fasting he endured, all for the victory
in the struggle for social justice. Yet, he saw himself as a humble person, no
better than his fellow man, and doing nothing more than what any one of us could
do. While this may be the plain truth, it is not the reality. What made him
special and above the rest of us was his courage. He had more "ganas"
and courage than all of us put together. Cesar Chavez is uniquely an American
He had immense knowledge and wisdom - yet quit
school after the eight grade to become a migrant farmer worker and help his
His life was incredibly valuable; his worth
was beyond any economic measure - yet during his lifetime he never earned more
that $ 5,000 a year.
He took an act of weakness -- fasting -- and
turned it into his strongest weapon to achieve national recognition and support
for the struggle and victory for the farm workers.
He redefined the word "macho". While mostly everyone had a negative view of being "macho", and stereotyped Latino males as being "male chauvinists," Cesar put it in a positive context. He was once asked by a reporter what being "macho" meant to him. He answered, " to be a man is to suffer for others." It sounds better in Spanish, "ser macho es saber sufrir por otros."
Esto, mis hermanos y hermanas, I believe, was Cesar’s greatest gift - and the
legacy he left us. He knew how to give of himself to others -- and he did it
unconditionally every day. He was a man who suffered for others who were in
greater need to us that makes him a hero. To
him it was just being human. I would like to close with a prayer Cesar Chavez
wrote, and leave you with his actual voice as he tells us, "si se
puede", and hope that not only will we celebrate his birthday every year,
but also, in his honor, continue the struggle every day! Hasta la
PRAYER & REFLECT
Show me the suffering of the most miserable, so I may know my people's plight. Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person. Help me to take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last. Grant me courage to serve others, for in service there is true life. Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers. Bring forth song and celebration, so that the Spirit will be alive among us. Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life. Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world. [The United Farm Workers’ Prayer]
Que viva Cesar Chavez !