As we celebrate the Labor Day holiday weekend, most of us probably don’t take much time to reflect on the plight of labor; and in particular the workers who toil in the fields, cultivating and picking the fruits and vegetables we so enjoy.
There is one National Park Unit dedicated to labor – Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in California. Established by President Obama in 2012, this site commemorates the Farm Workers movement and one of their primary leaders, Cesar E. Chavez.
Who was Cesar E. Chavez?
Born in Yuma, Arizona, as the son of farm workers, Chavez grew up around the fields and understood the struggles of laborers – poor living conditions, low pay, no benefits and situations often exploited by owners. Even though he had rosy prospects – a good job and a family – Chavez left all this because he believed truly that he could make a difference and help people.
He dedicated his live to help give farm workers a voice, teaming up with other nascent labor leaders and creating a movement. Their non-violent protests, strikes, marches and hunger strikes caught the world’s attention; resulting in the first (and only) law in the US that gives farm workers the right to organize – the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
Things To Do at Cesar E. Chavez National Monument
At Cesar E. Chavez National Monument there is a wonderful photo collection from those days. Especially moving were the scenes of non-violence:
- the man sitting in front of a truck loaded with grapes picked by strike-breaking workers;
- a child sitting in front of the hovel that was the farm workers homes;
- President Kennedy feeding Chavez a piece of bread to break his hungers strike.
Along with the photo gallery there are a couple video displays about Chavez and a movie. Outside, you can walk through the rose garden where Chavez and his wife are both buried, and walk around the grounds of what was the headquarters of the United Farm Workers.
It is not a large National Park Unit but it is important; a place where you can reflect on how easy it is for people to take advantage of those less fortunate. Even today you can see examples of this. The world needs more people like Cesar E. Chavez.
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.