Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez

Synopsis

Ilan Stavans has compiled essays and first-person narratives that capture the multiple dimensions of this storied figure. To that end, Stavans's collection of timely articles separates fact from fiction, or as he puts it the "objective is the opposite of hagiography."

Excerpt

I remain bewildered by the fact that Cesar Chavez, the labor activist, is arguably the most important Latino figure in the history of the United States yet his work remains unknown by the majority of the country’s citizens. The work done by the Chicano leader for the betterment of labor conditions during the Civil Rights era and beyond laid the foundation for a more equal society and was a stepping stone to the 2008 election of Barack Obama to the presidency. But his name is seldom mentioned. This is due in part to the decline of political capital he suffered in the later part of his life, as he survived his own legacy and ceased to be able to mobilize people. But the true blame must be placed on the keepers of that legacy. The United Farm Workers is a shadow organization, besieged by an incessant internal power struggle. Instead of furthering his mission, his successors—relatives and pupils—have wasted precious time in petty rivalries. The result is a face without a message. At present it is utterly impossible to imagine a Latino president of the United States. But when such possibility takes hold, the words of Cesar Chavez will resonate—not without generating welcome discomfort—in the nation’s chambers of government.

This volume offers a kaleidoscopic view of Chavez as a multifaceted, if imperfect, agent of change. It starts with a sustained profile of his life and work in the context of the Civil Rights upheaval in general and the Chicano Movement in particular and a scholarly analysis of his ideas and ideals. These are followed by reflections on his rhetorical talents, his capacity to connect with average people, his religiosity and his connection to the Catholic Church, as well as assessments of his decline in the eighties and accusations of the nepotism he received. I’ve also included fragments from classic reports on his quest for justice by John Gregory Dunne (from Delano, chapter 11) and Peter Matthiessen (from Sal Si Puedes, epilogue to the University of California Press edition). Tributes by La Raza Party co-founder José Angel Gutiérrez and snapshots by John C. Hammerback and Richard Griswold del Castillo, among others, add to the picture.

My objective in this volume is the opposite of hagiography: an invitation to look at Chavez critically, e.g., constructively.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.