Cesar Chavez: The movement, the day

By Jean Strahlendorf
Special to The PREVIEW

Did you ever boycott grapes or lettuce along with millions of other citizens to protest pesticide use and appalling working conditions for migrant farm workers?

Do you recall “Si, se puede” — “yes, one can”— a slogan of Cesar Chavez? How about his two fasts for weeks that jeopardized his health and his other sacrifices?

His birthday, Monday, March 31, Cesar Chavez Day, is an official state holiday for Colorado, California and Texas to promote community service and to recognize Cesar’s work in organized labor and as a civil rights activist. The day has been celebrated in other states and honored by President Obama, who first advocated for the holiday as a senator.

Cesar began laboring in fields in California at age 10 in the 1930s, and in the 1950s he became a community organizer for voter registration and other rights, co-founding the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. He died at age 66 in 1993 while helping defend a lawsuit asking millions of dollars from workers for the 1980s boycotts.

Who was this extraordinary man, and what is happening today in the farm workers movement? Using the book “The Union of Their Dreams,” by Miriam Pawel, and other sources, Kay Kaylor will describe the roles of the key people in the movement, as well as of faith-based groups, its history and will note any Colorado connections she can discover on Sunday, March 30 at the Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

Kaylor has been a member of PUUF and resident of Pagosa for less than two years and currently serves on PUUF’s steering committee.

As a native of Colorado and former resident of New Mexico, California, and Texas, she has supported the farm workers movement and boycotted buying grapes and lettuce for decades among other activist and volunteer activities.

After earning a BA in psychology and living in Hawaii, she served in the Philippines in the Peace Corps. She then obtained an MS in journalism and became a weekly newspaper editor in Oregon. Kaylor worked briefly on a Latin American newsletter and San Diego weekly and then became a college textbook editor and para-educator for three decades.

As an English-learner, literature, math, and library technician, she worked with Hispanic, Hmong, and other multicultural students in Northern California public schools and is now a part-time assistant at Sisson Library.

The Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship sponsors a children’s spiritual educational program and encourages families with children to please join us for our Sunday service. Our children’s religious programs teach our Unitarian Universalist heritage, ethical living, moral precepts to love your neighbor, work for a better world and to search for truth with an open mind. Arts and crafts projects also are utilized to illustrate these principles.

The service begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall. The address is Unit B-15, Greenbriar Plaza. Turn east on Greenbriar Drive off of North Pagosa Boulevard by the fire station, then left into the back parking lot and look for the big sign. All are welcome.

This story was posted on March 27, 2014.