?Si, se puede! Yes, We Can!
That famous chant by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta has reverberated in the United States over thirty years, words, that have come to help define one of the most recognizable labor and civil rights activists in U.S. history.
On March 31st, 2010, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation officially recognizing the day as "César Chávez Day" in commemoration of his legacy.
Born to a family of migrant farm workers on March 31st, 1972, near Yuma Arizona, Chávez spent much of his childhood laboring in fields and vineyards. He was a Second Generation American farm worker, activist and labor leader who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, now the United Farm Workers, in 1962 with Dolores Huerta.
The UFW would stand for fair treatment and fair wages for farm workers throughout the United States becoming the voice of over 50,000 dues paying members by 1970.
Noted by Senator Robert F. Kennedy as "one of the heroic figures of our time," Chávez was no stranger to community organizing as well as sacrificing his own life for the good of the union. Non-violent tactics gave voice to the voiceless. Chávez took part in a number of spiritual fasts, regarding the act as “a personal spiritual transformation”. In 1968, he fasted for 25 days, promoting the principle of nonviolence. He even protested for 32 days against pesticide use in 1984.
"Chávez fought and won many of the rights and benefits workers currently enjoy. As we celebrate his birthday, we honor the lasting victory of Cesar Chávez for American workers," Obama wrote in the proclamation released by the House White.
"Through his inspiring achievements, we have learned that social justice requires action, dedication and commitment." Obama said.
Chávez died on April 23, 1993 of unknown natural causes after a fast of several days. He is buried at the National Chávez Center, headquarters of the UFW.