CSU students and faculty remembered Cesar Chavez Monday afternoon in the Lory Student Center Commons.
The event featured live music, poetry readings, speakers, a clothing drive and a panel of former migrant workers. Mayor Ray Martinez gave a speech proclaiming Cesar Chavez Day.
“We’re not looking for differences,” Martinez said. “We’re looking for things we have in common.”
Chavez is best known for his peaceful protests to secure rights for migrant workers. He worked on farms and vineyards in California beginning in the 1930s. In 1956, Chavez formed the National Farm Workers Association and later changed the name to United Farm Workers. Chavez and the UFW led strikes and boycotts to demand better conditions for migrant workers. Chavez died ten years ago at age 66.
Ramon Del Castillo, professor of Chicano studies and sociology at Regis University in Denver, spoke of Chavez’s non-violent protests in relation to the current war with Iraq.
” That war is about oil and the destruction of another generation of brown people and white people,” Del Castillo said. “People don’t know how to deal with non-violence.”
He believes Chavez’s method of getting his message across was much more effective.
“The only way we were going to achieve social justice was by following a path of non-violence,” Del Castillo said. “We honor a man that preached non-violence.”
Lalo Delgado, author and teacher at Metropolitan State College in Denver, read several of his poems in Spanish and English. Though one of his poems was entitled “Stupid America,” he spoke of being thankful for living in the United States.
“You’re looking at a person who is grateful to this nation,” Delgado said. “But I will criticize the United States when it’s wrong.”
Jazmin Gonzalez, a CSU open option seeking business freshman, spoke less about America’s current situation and more about the life and work of Chavez.
“Cesar Chavez was all about justice and peace,” Gonzalez said. “He was a farm worker who did not tolerate injustice.”
Gonzalez, like many planning the Cesar Chavez Day celebrations, hopes to see Cesar Chavez Day become a paid state holiday. It is currently a holiday that employees can take off in place of a regular paid holiday.
Stacy Coleman, ASCSU Liberal Arts Senator, helped out with the clothing drive to benefit migrant workers in Colorado.
“Since I’m lucky enough to be able to get a college education, I need to do something to help people that do not have the same privileges,” Coleman said.
Kimi Jackson, staff attorney at CSU Student Legal Services, shared a presentation detailing the history and current situation of migrant workers in Colorado and around the country. Jackson worked with migrant workers for four years at Colorado Legal Services. She said many farm workers are still denied basic rights including hand-washing water, pesticide training and unemployment insurance.
“It’s a long road to change,” Jackson said. “Cesar would still be fighting.”