4 Ways to Honor Latinx Culture for Cesar Chavez Day
March 31st marks Cesar Chavez Day, a national holiday to commemorate the man who forged great reform for the Chicano people and migrant workers in the United States.
To shine some light on this day and its significance, we’ve compiled four ways you can honor the Hispanic community today and every day.
Who was Cesar Chavez?
Cesar Chavez was a first-generation American who grew up in the southwestern United States. Born in Yuma, Arizona, his family lost their farm in the Great Depression and moved to Northern California to find jobs. At a young age, he worked on farms with other migrant workers and saw firsthand the mistreatment they endured. He saw that these migrant workers were underpaid, undervalued, and underserved.
In 1962, Chavez, Philip Vera Cruz, and Dolores Huerta helped establish the National Farm Workers Association. This organization is known today as the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA). The phrase ¡Sí Se Puede! (Yes, We Can!) was coined by Huerta and continues to be an emblem of perseverance and pride within the Hispanic community. The phrase can also be seen as the slogan for the UFWA, honoring the legacy of these activists.
Under this organization, one of the most influential boycotts in United States History took place. From 1965-1970, a boycott was held against the California Table Grapes company. Despite opposition from law enforcement, poor treatment by farm managers, and lack of policy representation, the boycott was successful. Soon a nationwide boycott on non-unionized grapes took place. In 1970, the major farm owners in Delano California agreed to increase wages, contribute to a unionized health plan, and better working conditions. In addition to this feat, California passed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, giving all farmworkers the right to unionize and negotiate for better wages and working conditions.
In 1994, shortly after his death, Cesar Chavez was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to commemorate his efforts and positive impact on both the migrant worker and Chicano communities.
What is Cesar Chavez Day and Why it Matters
In 2014, President Barack Obama declared March 31st–Cesar Chavez’s birthday–a federal commemorative holiday. The holiday aims to commemorate the civil rights efforts exercised by Chavez while calling for ongoing recognition of the other Chicano leaders who are currently advocating for their community’s interests.
Cesar Chavez and his community were able to gain more rights for rural workers that continue to impact the farming communities today. For instance, because of the successful grape boycott, farmworkers have the right to unionize and cannot be penalized for doing so. Additionally, because of Chavez, the UFWA was created and continues to make strides in bettering the treatment of our migrant farmer communities. Finally, the efforts of Chavez also helped strengthen the Chicano Movement. While this movement originated a few decades before Chavez, his accomplishments helped strengthen the movement and gain traction.
How You Can Honor Cesar Chavez Day
How can we, as students, celebrate this holiday and honor our Hispanic communities? Below are a few tips, and more helpful links, to help you honor Chavez’s legacy in a way that speaks to you!
1. Educate Yourself
The Hispanic community still faces prejudice, bias, and a lack of knowledge around their culture and the issues they face. These issues can range from the impact Covid-19 has had on migrant farming conditions and language barriers to the lack of financial literacy geared toward this community.
Below are a few articles to get you started on your research:
- Smithsonian Latino Center
- Hispanics in the Labor Force: 5 Facts
- Organizations that help Latinos in the United States – The Latin Way
- Addressing Disparities in Finance for Hispanics and Latinos
- 18 Organizations to Support During National Farmworker Awareness Week – Food Tank
2. Add Latinx Culture to Your Daily Life
Support your local bookstore by finding Chicano authors on Instagram and reading about their experiences and perspectives. If you’re into beauty, look for Hispanic beauty bloggers, or if you love fashion, search for a few Hispanic designers. Looking for financial tips? Follow Hispanic financial influencers. Surround yourself with Latinx voices and share their creative work on your own platforms.
3. Buy Hispanic-owned
Whether it’s choosing to enjoy food from a Hispanic-owned restaurant for dinner or getting your upcoming Mother’s Day gift from a Latinx-owned business, these small decisions go a long way.
If you want to take it a step further, pause to think about the products you buy regularly. How many of them are made by Hispanic-owned companies? Make it part of your routine to buy your favorite items from more diverse organizations.
4. Serve Your Community
Research local volunteer and donation opportunities around your hometown. The Latinx community is everywhere, and with it come multiple opportunities to get involved with the community. Whether you participate in a garden or beach cleanup, local mural painting, or donate your time at a homeless shelter, showing up for the community is what Cesar Chavez Day is all about.
Showing your support may be different for each person, and that’s okay! The importance of this day is to serve as a reminder to honor and educate yourself on the Latinx community and show up in any way you can. Learning about new or different cultures and experiences will help you succeed both professionally and personally while ensuring your community continues to be open to everyone.