Mar 242009

Over 40 years ago Cesar Chavez began his fight to reduce poverty, lack of education and prejudice for Mexican-Americans. This week, Fort Collins community members will honor Chavez’s legacy and encourage a new generation of Mexican-Americans to continue the fight he started decades ago.

Colorado is one of the four states in the nation that recognizes Chavez’s birthday as a holiday, and to kick off a week of events running through March 31, CSU held an award ceremony Tuesday.

The celebration focused on bringing awareness to the Fort Collins community on the importance of civil rights activism by honoring Chavez and highlighting the local achievements of young student leaders throughout the community.

“(Chavez) did influence my life and encouraged me to follow my heart. His passion and love for humanity guided him,” said Kim Ford, a sophomore race and women studies major. “I continue to extract his excellence as I hope you all do.”

Selina Lujan, a student at Poudre High School and winner of the Cesar Chavez High School Award, said Chavez is a heroic figure in the Mexican-American culture.

“He was one of the greatest Mexican-American leaders,” Lujan said. “The goal he sought to accomplish was to break racial barriers through union. His actions motivated future generations of Mexican-Americans to follow their dreams.”

Chavez fought to improve equal and safe working conditions and equal education because he believed that they were essential human rights.

Wilfredo Galarza, a sophomore political science and international studies major, shared his own life experiences and struggles with the audience and said that Chavez, as a prominent figurehead in the fight for civil rights, succeeded in gaining that social justice for the Mexican-American workers.

“There’s one thing that no one can take away from you, your experiences. I used my struggles to make me stronger,” Galarza said. “We as Latinos need to unite and support each other.”

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at

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