Cesar Chavez Day
Cesar Chavez Day in Albuquerque occurs every spring, in late March or early April. The day has two parts: a march and a festival. For 2015, the march takes place on Saturday, March 28. The festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The march begins and ends at the center, followed by a family fiesta with children's activities, exhibits, food and live performances.
Cesar Chavez was one of America's foremost civil rights leaders. He led the cause of farm worker rights and created the United Farm Workers (UFW) in 1962. Chavez traveled to farm camps and towns signing on members and galvanizing worker support. Chavez believed farm workers deserved better than their employers gave them. As a Mexican American, he galvanized the Latino community through his non-violent tactics.
In 1973, Chavez and 10,000 farm workers went on strike over a contract dispute about grape picking. The strikers were arrested, beaten and even killed. Chavez then asked the American people to boycott grapes. 17 million did so. The 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act was enacted as a result of the boycott.
Chavez died in 1993, fighting for worker rights until the very end of his life. Though he was only five feet six inches tall, it is said that Chavez was a giant.
Because of the work he did and the gains he accomplished, Chavez' life and work is celebrated every spring around his birthday of March 31.
Cesar Chavez March
The annual Albuquerque march begins at 10:30 a.m. at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The route begins and ends at the Center.
The march is organized by the Recuerda a Cesar Chavez Committee (RCCC), which is dedicated to educating the community about Chavez' life and work. Established in 1993 after Chavez' death, it is comprised of a core group of volunteers. The RCCC has organized the annual Cesar Chavez Day march and celebration for since 1993.
In 2006, the RCCC established the "Si Se Puede" awards, which are given to two individuals who have served the community in the spirit of Cesar Chavez.
Marchers in the parade include community members and representatives from social justice groups. Banners, signs and logos are common. The parade promotes the values Chavez held dear: social justice, income parity, and equal rights for all people, regardless of the color of their skin, nationality, level of education or immigrant status.
From the time he established the National Farm Workers Association in 1962 until the day he died, Chavez worked tirelessly for workers rights.
Entertainment at Cesar Chavez March
The annual march is a gathering of those affiliated with social justice groups, interested individuals, and entertainers who help keep the day festive and fun.
The Ehacatl Aztec Dancers are a fixture at each Cesar Chavez march, performing before the parade begins. Their performances are a mix of music, dance and storytelling, and are presented in a tri-lingual format of Aztec, English and Spanish. Another annual festival they can be found at is the Marigold Parade.
Cesar Chavez Festival
Once the march has ended, everyone makes their way back to the National Hispanic Cultural Center for the annual festival. Arts and crafts and food vendors are on hand with items such as chile ristras, t-shirts, honey and more. Food trucks offer a variety of food and drink.
Musicians set up on several stages, and everyone enjoys activities such as face painting, dance, speakers and a kids' corner. The concert is free.
The UNM volunteer and student run radio station KUNM has a show devoted to bringing listeners Latin American, Chicano and Hispano music and culture. Raices can be found at the Cesar Chavez festival. Tune in to 89.9 FM on Mondays from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. to hear them.
Chavez in Albuquerque
Chavez had ties to New Mexico, visiting several times. Cesar Chavez visited Albuquerque in 1991, speaking at Woodward Hall at the University of New Mexico.
He visited Albuquerque again in 1993, just before his death. He spoke at Plumbers Hall about the plight of farm workers and the devastating results pesticides had upon their health.
On April 23, after fasting 36 days to protest pesticide use, Chavez died in his sleep. 50,000 people attended his funeral.
Chavez was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, the highest honor given to a civilian.
In 1996, Albuquerque's city council renamed Stadium Boulevard, from Yale to Fourth Street, Avenida Cesar Chavez.
California established March 31 the Cesar Chavez state holiday in 1994. New Mexico tried to establish a Cesar Chavez state holiday in 1997. Although it was passed by the state legislature, it was vetoed by Governor Johnson.
In 1999, 24 years after it was banned in California, New Mexico banned the use of the short handled hoe in agricultural labor.