Cesar Chavez and Hugo Chavez: More Alike Than They Are Different

By Rubin, Jeffrey W | The Christian Science Monitor, March 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

Cesar Chavez and Hugo Chavez: More Alike Than They Are Different


Rubin, Jeffrey W, The Christian Science Monitor


Cesar Chavez and Hugo Chavez may have different reputations, but they both offer lessons for progress in America.

March 31 is the birthday of the Chavez Americans love to love. Cesar Chavez led the United Farm Workers (UFW) to successfully take on California agribusiness in the 1960s, and his soft-spoken manner and fierce commitment to social justice inspired a generation of activists.

Supporters remember the grape and lettuce boycotts of the 1960s and '70s as a time when ordinary people joining together began to change the world. Mr. Chavez's birthday is celebrated in eight states, and during the 2008 campaign President Obama said he'd make it a national holiday, in tribute to the charismatic Latino icon.

Hugo Chavez is the Chavez Americans love to hate. Blustery president, challenger of US influence in Latin America, and subverter of democratic norms, Mr. Chavez seeks counsel from Fidel Castro and mocks US presidents in public. He polarizes Venezuela by alternately rallying the poor and shutting down radio stations, and he urges leftist presidents across the Americas to take up his anti- US and anti-capitalist stance.

The truth is, however, that the two Chavezes are more alike than they are different. Americans' inability to see that says more about our own political blindness than about these two charismatic fighters for social justice. And if we reexamine these figures, we may find a way out of our own political impasse.

Few Americans know that the gains won by the UFW in the '70s have since unraveled. There are few unions for California's farmworkers. Many of these workers face conditions similar to those of the 1950s, living in tents in the canyons of San Diego and receiving minimum wage for backbreaking labor that is also irregular and unsafe.

And as a recent book by journalist Miriam Pawel makes clear, the cause of the UFW's demise was Cesar Chavez himself. The charisma and brilliance that enabled Chavez to rally supporters across the US, from students to ministers to suburban housewives, also led him to ignore the on-the-ground needs of running a union and throw out anyone who opposed his top-down authority.

Few Americans know that Hugo Chavez has brought dignity, food, and a say in politics to many of the poor Venezuelans who were excluded from the wealth and upward mobility of the oil-boom years. Organized in neighborhood councils, Venezuela's poor feel like citizens for the first time in their country's now 50 years of democracy. They can debate public issues, contribute to the development of their neighborhoods, and get access to healthcare.

Why don't Americans know that Cesar Chavez stomped on democracy in the UFW, purging anyone who spoke up to disagree with him and slandering loyal supporters as spies and seducers? And why don't Americans know that Hugo Chavez offers the dignity of recognition and citizenship, along with material resources for communities and families, to people who have been suffering brutal poverty since the end of the oil boom in the early 1980s?

We don't know these things because we don't like to see politics in complicated packages. We think of successful movements for social justice as entirely good, and we imagine democracy as a system of elections, laws, and courts that produces sound legislation out of the needs and preferences of citizens, mediated through elected representatives. When democracy doesn't work this way, we decry partisanship and special interests. But we understand social movements and democracy as separate phenomena, both of them good, but very different one from the other. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cesar Chavez and Hugo Chavez: More Alike Than They Are Different
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.