By Max McGaughy
Cesario Estrada Chavez was born on March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona to Juana Estrada Chavez and Librado Chavez. At age 11 his family lost their house during the Great Depression and were forced to become migrant farm workers. Throughout his young life he traveled through the orchards, fields, and vineyards, unintentionally exposing himself to the hardships and injustices of farm labor life.
We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure- Cesar Chavez
Rise to Fame...
After finishing eight grade, Cesar proceeded to work the fields full time. He enrolled in the U.S. Navy in 1946 after World War II. He returned to the United States in 1948 and met and married Helen Fabela. His introduction to labor organizing began in 1952 when he met Father Donald McDonnell, an activist Catholic priest, and Fred Ross, an organizer with the Community Service Organization, who recruited Chavez to join his group. Within a few years Chavez had become national director. In 1962, he resigned and then formed the National Farm Workers Association. In 1965 his organization joined with another organization and had their first strike against grape growers in California. A year later the two organizations merged and were renamed the United Farm Workers. Two years later, in 1968, Chavez called for a national boycott against California table grape growers. Over the next few years, many grape companies signed contracts with the union, improving compensation and labor conditions. For the next twenty years, Chavez employed nonviolent means to bring attention to the plight of farm workers. He led marches, called for boycotts and went on several hunger strikes. He also brought national awareness to the danger of pesticides to workers' health. His dedication to his work earned him numerous friends and supporters, including Robert Kennedy and Jesse Jackson. It is believed that Chavez's hunger strikes contributed to his death: He died on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, Arizona.