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Remembering César Chávez

Valley College faculty and students gathered Wednesday in memory of César Chávez and his birthday.

By Ariel Waitkuweit | Copy Editor
On March 31, 2012


Serious, focused and bilingual are a few of the words guest speaker Rosalio Muñoz used to describe César Chávez Wednesday in Monarch Hall during his commemoration to the Chicano-renowned labor leader, whose birthday is Saturday.

"He came from that place of everyday working people and everyday, what we would call, 'raza,'" said Muñoz, an activist who met Chavez during the Civil Rights era and co-chaired the National Chicano Moratorium Committee.

Muñoz-who last spoke at Valley College more than 40 years ago-offered students insight into Chávez and his successful labor union efforts, speaking from first-hand experience about the 1960s Chicano movement. According to Muñoz, Chávez began organizing farmworkers in the 1950s in Northern California cities like San José and Stockton. He focused on creating a social movement to counter the ongoing discrimination many were experiencing, including cotton-picking fieldworkers-a position in which Muñoz's dad worked.

"There was the white wage for the same work, and there was the Mexican wage," Muñoz said, putting into perspective the effects of unfair treatment among workers of various races.

Muñoz also explained how Chávez's farmworkers' union efforts grew from Mexican-Americans to include other effected races and ethnicities, such as African-Americans and Filipinos. This expansion helped unify various cultures suffering the consequences of discrimination.

"He was 'chaparro y prieto': he was short and dark; and he was also very Catholic, which was not so popular," Muñoz said, explaining how Chávez had to break the stigmas related to these characteristics to create social change.

Chávez maintained his composure despite the stereotypes that came with these descriptions.

"He was patient, and he believed that when you want something, you need to be 100 percent into it," said broadcasting journalism major Claudia Galluccio.

With this patience and dedication, Chávez managed to transcend the stereotypes associated with being Chicano and work hard to form what eventually became the United Farm Workers union. According to Muñoz, this hard work enabled Chávez to rally enough supporters to boycott various products, such as grapes, in an effort to force companies to accept farmworker labor unions.

Along with Chávez, other activists-such as Dolores Huerta-helped solidify the UFW and Chicano movement in general.

"Muñoz has been a Chicano activist ... since the early '60s," said Chicano studies instructor Pete Lopez, who hosted the event along with Associated Student Union Commissioner of Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Erik Castañón.

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