“Si, se puede” or as translated in English, “Yes, it can be done” was a very powerful statement coined by the Mexican-American César Chávez.
César Chávez was a very caring leader. Like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi, he used nonviolence as a way to achieve very memorable accomplishments. He was an important person because he fought for the civil rights of American farm workers and helped formed the National Farm Workers Association.
Chávez was born on March 31, 1927, near Yuma, Ariz. He had two brothers and two sisters; he was the lucky child named after his grandfather.
César grew up in a humble home. His family lost all of its land during the Great Depression because it was unable to pay the interest on its home loan.
His family moved to California to toil as migrant farm workers, surviving by picking peas, lettuce, cherries, beans, corn, grapes and cotton.
César refused to let his mom work in the fields. Instead, he dropped out of school in the seventh grade. His new life consisted of doing migrant farm work the entire year.
When he turned 17, Chávez decided to join the U.S. Navy during World War II. He later described this period as “the two worst years of my life.”
When he left the Navy, he married Helen Fabela and they moved to San Jose, Calif.
César worked in the fields until he became the organizer for the Community Service Organization, which was a Latino civil rights group. He traveled throughout California and informed the public about the rights workers deserved.
Chávez then left the CSO and started the United Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta. In 1965 César Chávez led the “California Grape Strike” to demand higher wages for migrant workers. The strike lasted for five years and attracted lots of attraction including that of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who supported the striking workers.
In the 1970s, the United Farm Workers organized the “Salad Bowl Strike,” which was the largest farmworker strike in the history of the United States. The union won and helped enforce higher wages for farm workers who worked in the grape and lettuce fields of California.
Another one of Chávez’s famous strikes was the boycott that protested the use of pesticide on grapes. His protest lowered the sales of grapes by 15 percent. This was just enough to force the ban of some of the pesticides.
César Chávez died on April 23, 1993. Since then, his birthday has been celebrated in California, Colorado and Texas.
In those states many state government agencies, community colleges, libraries and public schools are closed.
His birthday became a holiday in those states because of the great leadership and influence he had when he was alive.
Chávez was known to fast for up to 25 days at a time, which was his way of fighting in a nonviolent way for the rights of agricultural workers. Those extreme sacrifices helped him succeed in his strikes.
Chávez’s leadership can be compared to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi because he demonstrated an abundance of grit.
Not too many leaders would dare to starve themselves to defend the rights of farm workers.
Chávez inspires me because of his supreme leadership. Coming from a family of farm workers, I am grateful for his hard work and persistence to bring about the improvement of laws for people working in the fields.
I feel proud to be a Latino regardless of the discrimination Latinos face in America.
Chávez fought for the rights of his people. He was an extremely influential person because he demonstrated persistence when fighting for the rights of his people.
Due to his efforts, farm workers have better salaries and working conditions. He was a man to be admired because he would sacrifice his strength and energy to provide his people with what they needed.
I know that when Chávez said, “Si, se puede,” he meant serious business about accomplishing what seemed impossible.
Christian Moreno is a sophomore and member of the Walla Walla High School Latino Club. He is a participant in the AVID program, and a volunteer at the Walla Walla County Fair and tutors at the Garrison Night School pre-literacy program.