Cries of “Si, se puede” rang across California State University, Stanislaus Wednesday night as the college hosted its 16th annual César E. Chávez Memorial Celebration.
The event, which came one day before the official César Chávez Day due to the university’s closure to observe the holiday, drew hundreds for a standing-room only celebration of Chávez, a humble farmworker who organized tens of thousands of farmworkers in the 1960s and 1970s. Through non-violence, Chávez’s “La Causa” ultimately brought about the Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
“This event is important because it’s an opportunity for you to learn how important Chávez was,” said Anna Caballero, a former State Senator representing Salinas and the current Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, who keynoted the event. Caballero is also the only Latina member of Gov. Jerry Brown’s cabinet.
Caballero went on to detail, in a mix of English and Spanish, how Chávez changed the political landscape, defending and protecting the rights of farmworkers, immigrants and children.
Tuesday’s event focused on children in large part, with a presentation on Getting Things Done from the Stanislaus County AmeriCorps Afterschool Program. Students dance groups participated, with performances from Grupo Folclórico de la Escuela Osborn and Waterford After School Danza Foclórica Mexicana. CSU Stanislaus’ Teatro Los Hijos Del Campo led a commemorative march. The memorial celebration also included an artistic poster competition, won by Pitman High School Student Heriberto Ochoa in the high school division, and Alex Duarte of Waterford Middle School at the junior high level.
Despite the celebrations, César Chávez Day isn’t a day for partying, going to the beach or staying home sleeping, Caballero said. She said it’s a day for community service, to continue Chávez’s legacy and to better one’s community.
“The work isn’t done,” Caballero said. “Today, as we stand here, farmworkers have to work 10 hours before they get overtime.”
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