With the “Cesar Chavez: History is Made One Step at a Time” movie out in theaters this past weekend, we should all stop and appreciate the true history of this story. Cesario Estrada Chavez, later known as Cesar Chavez, was born in a small town in Arizona on March 31, 1927. This young man was a United States citizen who, with his family, worked the farms as migrant workers. His experience of being a farmworker created the passion behind his activism for all the farmworkers working in the United States.
This passion led him to become an icon for farmworkers, especially for undocumented farmworkers. Cesar Chavez knew that while some farmworkers were already underpaid and putting in extreme working conditions, undocumented workers were treated even worse. This led Cesar Chavez to start The National Farm Workers Association, now known as United Farm Workers. By creating this union for the farmworkers, he brought to light many things that they were facing in their daily duties. But, what happens to the undocumented farmworkers? Today it is known that 6 out of every 10 farmworkers are undocumented, and they do not obtain any benefits from the union. If unionized farmworkers are already being paid at the lowest minimum wage allowed, we have to expect that farmers take advantage of the undocumented workers and will pay them even less.
Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to voice this mistreatment, even for the undocumented, and he had many nonviolent boycotts, marches, and hunger strikes. While he was being an activist, the government made some changes to the farmworkers’ rights. Fast-forward fifty years and where are the farmworkers today? The majority are undocumented and jumping from farm to farm so ICE does not arrest them and deport them. These men and women are attempting to earn an honest living while providing the abundance of these crops to our dinner tables each night. Yet, the government will not accept to compromise and get these farmworkers “working visas” or even let them begin the process to becoming a citizen of the country they are working every day for. What will it take for the government to realize that farmworkers are a necessity for our society to eat on a daily basis? Should there be hunger strikes, boycotts, marches as Cesar Chavez once did for them? Who needs to take the reigns and voice the need to be grateful to our farmworkers who assist in putting food on our tables?
In the words of Cesar Chavez, “[Farm workers] are involved in the planting and the cultivation and the harvesting of the greatest abundance of food known in this society. They bring in so much food to feed you and me and the whole country and enough food to export to other places. The ironic thing and the tragic thing is that after they make this tremendous contribution, they don’t have any money or any food left for themselves.”
The saddest thing is that this quote still remains to be true after all that he fought for.
Martha Trujillo is a Staff Writer for Latino Giant. Born in 1979 in Laredo, Texas, Martha was born to a mother who was an immigrant from Mexico and a father who is a U.S. citizen. She was raised in a typical Mexican household and carries her roots with her every day. Martha holds an Associate’s Degree in Business and has worked in the medical field for about 17 years in the business office. Currently, she resides in Arizona and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts to purse her dream of opening a restaurant.