Cesar Chavez at a United Farmworkers rally, 1974. (Photo : Wiki Commons)
On Monday, President Barack Obama will designate property that housed Latino labor activist Cesar Chavez as a national monument within the National Park system, The Associated Press reported.
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In the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains in California, the property is home to Chavez's organization the United Farm Workers of America as well as memorials to Chavez's accomplishments. The 187-acre site was home to Chavez, his family, and the farm workers that made up his organization, the AP reported.
The land, known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace) or simply La Paz, was the center of the UFW beginning in 1971. There Chavez, who was born in Yuma, Arizona, united migrant workers, led countless field strikes and convinced growers to sign contracts to provide better pay and working conditions to farm workers.
Paul Chavez, Cesar's son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, told the AP, "When my father came to La Paz, he was looking for a place to pull back from the daily struggles. he had a tremendous faith that with some training and confidence, the poorest and least educated among us could take on the biggest industry in the state."
Before Chavez's death in 1993, La Paz flourished, becoming a city filled with community support and care. However, after his death the community quickly dissolved, leaving only two families living on the land.
Chavez's organization also suffered. According to the AP, membership of the UFW dropped significantly from more than 70,000 in the 1970s to less than 27,000 today. Despite the decline in the community and organization, La Paz continues to educated children and visitors about the UFW's movement and legacy.
The AP reported that La Paz's visitor center, Chavez's former office and his grave site will all be part of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument. Paul Chavez also told reporters that he hopes a two-year-old conference and education center will return to do what his father aimed to do: educate and train people to make a change.
"If they can come here and we can give them some tools, and they can go back to their communities to use them, then I think my dad's legacy has been served," he told the AP.
The new national monument will also benefit the National Park System, Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association said. "The whole purpose of the National Park System is to speak of what it means to be American and tell the stories of Americans," Kiernan told the AP. "The Latino culture and stories are not adequately told and interpreted throughout the park system, and this designation helps fill that void."
Obama's decision to designate the site as a National Monument comes at a crucial point during the presidential election season. With only about a month left before the November 6 elections, his decision could solidify his already prominent Hispanic support.