Tuesday, April 01, 2008
HONOR A QUIEN HONOR MERECE. YOUR LEGACY WILL CONTINUE CESAR E. CHAVEZ.
On April 29, 1993, Cesar Estrada Chavez was honored in death by those he led in life. More than 50,000 mourners came to honor the charismatic labor leader at the site of his first public fast in 1968 and his last in 1988, the United Farm Workers Delano Field Office at "Forty Acres."
It was the largest funeral of any labor leader in the history of the U.S. They came in caravans from Florida to California to pay respect to a man whose strength was in his simplicity.
Farm workers, family members, friends and union staff took turns standing vigil over the plain pine coffin which held the body of Cesar Chavez. Among the honor guard were many celebrities who had supported Chavez throughout his years of struggle to better the lot of farmworkers throughout America.
Many of the mourners had marched side by side with Chavez during his tumultuous years in the vineyards and farms of America. For the last time, they came to march by the side of the man who had taught them to stand up for their rights, through nonviolent protest and collective bargaining.
Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney, who celebrated the funeral mass, called Chavez "a special prophet for the worlds' farm workers." Pall bearers, including crews of these workers, Chavez children and grandchildren, then carried their fallen leader, resting at last, from the Memorial Park to Forty Acres.
The death of Chavez marked an era of dramatic changes in American agriculture. His contributions would be eroded, and others would have to shoulder the burden of his work. But, Cesar Chavez, who insisted that those who labor in the earth were entitled to share fairly in the rewards of their toil, would never be forgotten.
As Luis Valdez said, "Cesar, we have come to plant your heart like a seed . . . the farm workers shall harvest in the seed of your memory."
FINAL RESTING PLACE/FINAL RECOGNITION
The body of Cesar Chavez was taken to La Paz, the UFW's California headquarters, by his family and UFW leadership. He was laid to rest near a bed of roses, in front of his office.
On August 8, 1994, at a White House ceremony, Helen Chavez, Cesar's widow, accepted the Medal of Freedom for her late husband from President Clinton. In the citation accompanying America's highest civilian honor which was awarded posthumously, the President lauded Chavez for having "faced formidable, often violent opposition with dignity and nonviolence.
And he was victorious. Cesar Chavez left our world better than he found it, and his legacy inspires us still. He was for his own people a Moses figure," the President declared. "The farm workers who labored in the fields and yearned for respect and self-sufficiency pinned their hopes on this remarkable man who, with faith and discipline, soft spoken humility and amazing inner strength, led a very courageous life"
The citation accompanying the award noted how Chavez was a farm worker from childhood who "possessed a deep personal understanding of the plight of migrant workers, and he labored all his years to lift their lives." During his lifetime, Chavez never earned more than $5,000 a year. The late Senator Robert Kennedy called him "one of the heroic figures of our time."
Chavez's successor, said, "Every day in California and in other states where farm workers are organizing, Cesar Chavez lives in their hearts. Cesar lives wherever Americans' he inspired work nonviolently for social change."