WHY WE ARE HONORING CESAR CHAVEZ

SPEECH BY BENNY MARTINEZ AT THE CESAR CHAVEZ PARADE

APRIL 1, 2000 HILDAGO PARK HOUSTON, TEXAS

 

We come together today to honor a man who made it a lifestyle to sacrifice. What he did was nothing in comparison to what we've had to sacrifice get here today. If you know the history of Cesar Chavez then you would be running to honor him, here. Cesar sacrificed for us and suffered discrimination. As a youth he would be beat up and called dumb Mexican in school. He was kicked out of a restaurant with his family for being Mexican and he asked the owner, "Why do you have to treat people like that?" Cesar would work hard as a migrant farm worker and quickly realized that even the labor camps were segregated. The poisonous spray from the planes would make him choke and burn his eyes. But Cesar would leave the fields to proudly serve in the Navy at a young 17 during W.W.II. When he returned, he married Helen Fabela, who was from Delano, California, and had grown up packing grapes. They would move into a barrio call Sal si Puedes-Escape if you can. All of the poverty bothered Cesar and Father Donald McDonnell who would talk to him of fair wages for working men, and a child's right to education. Cesar wanted to hear more. Father McDonnell would read to him the writings of Pope Leo the Thirteenth which taught that every man should have equal pay for wages and equal pursuit of happiness. Pope Leo wrote of men forming associations and being there for each other. When one man falls the other man should be there for him. These writings encouraged Cesar to study and improve his reading. He excelled quickly and soon he was reading the works of Mahatma Gandhi, a leader of India. Gandhi, a lawyer wanted to help free his country from British rule. Gandhi would organize strikes, marches and fasts. He used peaceful ways and was sometimes sent to prison. Cesar was impressed with how he worked toward these goals. He also admired the great Dr. Martin Luther King and began to write to him. Cesar worried about Dr. King's safety and was amazed at how calm he was after his house had been bombed. Fortunately, his wife and baby escaped harm. Cesar was impressed at how Dr. King used peaceful protests. He would calmly meet his enemy with love. All of these great people influenced Cesar and he wanted to use their ideas to improve the farmworker's life. Soon, Cesar went to work for Fred Ross, the Community Service Organization. Cesar helped over 4,000 people register to vote. Cesar would go on to form new Community Service Organizations throughout California and eventually was elected director of the National Community Service Organization. Cesar would go on to organize the farmworkers, eliminate DDT, improve their working conditions and better pay. Cesar was influenced by these great men, Pope Leo, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King and their teachings. Today we admire Cesar and what we have done for him today is minuscule in comparison for what he has done for us.