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Connections to the Past: Bay Area Civil Rights Leaders Still Relevant Today

Cesar Chavez is one of many great leaders who sought to improve the wages and conditions for farmworkers in California. Together with Chavez, Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association (later called United Farm Workers) in 1962.

Chavez’s fight for laborers’ rights, together with Mario Savio’s Free Speech Movement at University of California, Berkeley and Harvey Milk’s LGBT activism, formed the core of the Civil Rights Movement in California in the 1970s.

Spanish teacher Angelica Rodriguez shared her thoughts about Chavez and what his movement means to her personally.  “I think students should know why [Chavez and Huerta] are considered great leaders of this country, they should know about their struggle for better conditions and better wages for farm workers in California and other states like Texas and Arizona.”

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Cesar Chavez, pivotal leader in gaining farmworkers’ rights in California.

According to Rodriguez, “Students should know that their movement inspired many other movements, including the student movement in East LA that demanded equal education for Latino students. Farmworkers’ conditions greatly improved because of the efforts of Chavez and Huerta. Today their non-violent fight for social justice continues to inspire new generations of Latinos to discover their own power and to continue to demand equal rights and equal justice in American society.”

This perspective comes from someone who has directly benefited from Chavez’s efforts. Rodriguez shared, “I come from a family of migrant workers. My father, uncles and grandfather took part in the Salinas lettuce strike in 1970. My family benefited directly from Cesar Chavez´s work in Salinas when he lead a strike to protect farm workers right to organize for better conditions and better wages. I remember taking part in Cesar Chavez’s last march in Salinas in 1979. The plight of the farm workers for me is ever present, I am reminded of it every time I visit my parents in Salinas.”

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