Cesar Chavez Event Celebrates Labor Diversity


AZTEC DANCERS: Celebrating civil rights and Mexican culture, the 12th annual Cesar Chavez event at the Pacific Community Center raised awareness of labor relations

Agnessa Kasumyan, El Vaquero Staff Writer

In 1962, former farm worker and labor leader Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, now called the United Farm Workers of America, in support of labor rights for field workers. Half a century later, Americans are still celebrating his contributions to the labor force.

Glendale held its 12th annual Cesar Chavez event Saturday to honor the civil rights activist at the Pacific Community Center attached to Edison Elementary School, promoting his dedication to improving working conditions, increasing wages for laborers, and providing cleaner housing conditions for workers.

Mayor Frank Quintero helped originate the event as a tribute to Chavez and his movement.

“I wanted to do it because of everything he did for working people in this country,” he said.

Quintero believes that Chavez’s humble background is an important factor in the city’s celebration of his life and career. He started off as a field worker in Arizona and California, going on to serve in World War II before devoting his life to helping the “working poor,” particularly the laborers who “produce the food that we all eat,” but are among the “lowest paid.”

Although some of Chavez’s concerns for farm workers have improved, Quintero believes that there are still major issues that need to be addressed for workers in fields across the country, in addition to service industry employees.

At a local level, the city strives to provide affordable housing, working with the school district and youth programs while “constantly” trying to obtain grants from both the state and the federal government to launch and incorporate programs for low income individuals and families.

Quintero hopes that the event helps youth in Glendale learn the importance of helping others and serving fellow members in the community.

“No matter what their life is like, they can always spend a little bit of time to help others. They can always try to provide some comfort and service to other people,” said Quintero.

Despite his modest beginnings and lifestyle, Chavez considered it his duty to work for justice in his community, according to guest speaker Ruben Duran, board member of the City Attorneys Association of Los Angeles County.

“He fought and he struggled for justice for farm workers. The working conditions for people in the fields, some stuff you just couldn’t imagine. And it wasn’t that long ago, [maybe] forty, fifty years,” he said.

The festival also celebrated Chavez’s Mexican heritage with performances by Mariachi Fiesta de Jalisco, Flamenco Ole, and an Aztec dance group from North Hollywood as well as free care asada and chicken tacos.

Claudia Jimenez, one of the Aztec dance performers, believes that the city’s commemoration of Chavez and his movement is “something to be grateful for” because he stood up for laborers who helped put food on tables by working in fields.

Councilmember Ara Najarian, “happy to embrace” Chavez’s ethnic background, has been attending the event for the past nine years, strongly supporting the “results” that Chavez brought not only to farm workers but the “general labor force.”

In addition to the performances, there was also a raffle that gave away bikes to students. Edison Elementary School fifth grader, Valerie Hoyos, who had also attended the event with her family last year, was one of the winners.

Aside from “feeling very happy” about her new bike, Hoyos felt it was important for the city to celebrate Chavez because he was “a great man” who “helped a lot of people.”