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Remembering Cesar Chavez

Dear Editor:

When I was in the Seminary in 1950, a group of us students would pick up children of farm workers and take them to the local parish for catechism. Our adventure became known as the Camarillo Caravan.

This project was my first real life experience of the terrible living conditions of families living in run down housing and working in the fields under the hot sun.

My sympathy for these families led me in the 1960’s to meet and support the efforts of Cesar Chavez to organize the United Farm Workers Union.   Like two other great moral leaders of his generation, Martin Luther king & Dorothy Day, Cesar’s faith led him to struggle against injustice, using the non-violent spiritual weapons of prayer, fasting, self-sacrifice and works of love.

Cesar Chavez, if still living, would be 85 this month. Memories dim and time fades but we must remind today’s younger generation that Cesar Chavez was one of the great pioneers of our nation’s civil rights movement. He was a courageous fighter for the dignity of Hispanic laborers-especially the poor and those who labored in the “factories in the fields.”

Weakened by his fasting for Social Justice, Cesar was taken from us in his mid 60’s. I attended his funeral in Delano, along with 60,000 others from around the world. As I passed his casket, I paused, gave his body a blessing and wept.  One of my sons who had accompanied me on the trip said, “Dad, why are you crying?”

I could not answer him as words could not explain the deep appreciation I had for this man who continues to this day to inspire me to do what I can to make a difference in the lives of people who have little or no voice.

Charlie Ara

Cerritos


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