by Sean Cruz
Portland, Oregonian--The Oregonian recently printed author Randy Shaw's comments describing Cesar Chavez’ activities in Oregon on behalf of farm workers, settling the issue (one would hope) as to whether the Mexican-American civil rights leader ever had a direct relationship with state politics.
This short piece is all the more welcome because it reveals more information about who Cesar Chavez was than the Committee-Formerly-Bent-On-Renaming-Interstate Avenue has managed to do in the entire past two years (see link to post, below).
I look forward to reading the book.
The 4 comments posted online do well to illustrate the same combination of ignorance, selfishness and racism that framed the farmworkers’ struggle, still alive, still vile.
The miserable living and working conditions that mostly Mexican farmworkers and their families endured for generations were the outward manifestations of these attitudes.
The short hoe in the hands of a stooped-over Mexican disturbed few of the millions of Americans who ate the lettuce…the USA blinked its indifference.
Didn’t we all munch his broccoli while his children played in the chemical dust? You betcha!
All was in its rightful place in America; for sure, the Mexicans were, nearly invisible, following the crops, welcome to the USA, greaser….
Then came Cesar Chavez, son of Mexican migrants, the American Gandhi, the Chicano Great Soul, both humble and fierce….
Cesar inspired and led a coalition that you can read about in Mr. Shaw’s book.
Like Cesar Chavez, I’m the son and grandson of Mexican farmworkers, a Mexican-American, a Chicano.
I’d like the people bent on renaming a Portland street to work on describing Cesar more accurately, using words like Mexican-American, migrant and Chicano once in a while; focus more on educating the community, less on making demands of other people’s time and money; more on the honoring part, less on the self-righteous part…remember that you do not own the franchise except in your own minds.
That important fact has been lost on the white politicians, salsa-dancing around the issue, just as poorly informed as when they started kicking the can of worms through town….
It would be no insult to name a school, a library, a park, a farmers’ market, a bridge for Cesar Chavez, no insult to Mexican-Americans or Chicanos at all.
Try to get the name right, if little else….