By Sean Cruz
Marching bands! Salsa! Viva Cesar Chavez!
The newly-renamed Cesar Chavez Boulevard was the place to be in Portland on March 31, Cesar Chavez’s birthday, where members of the Committee-Once-Bent-on-Renaming-Interstate led a parade of marchers, floats, drill teams, puppy dogs and candidates for public office before exultant throngs of celebrants who lined the Street Also Named 39th Avenue.
The event went a long ways towards establishing Portland’s reputation as second to none in the honoring of the late Mexican American civil rights leader, and one can only hope that next year’s 2011 Second Annual Cesar Chavez Day Celebration will come close to matching the fervor expressed in this one.
The Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce won the Best Float award with its entry, a block-long bean burrito (which happened to be the only Mexican food available along the entire length of Cesar Chavez Boulevard) on wheels.
The list of speechmakers is too long to be listed here, but let it be said that what was lost in inaccuracy and misinformation was made up for in me-tooing, hiney-smooching and vote-begetting, just like during the campaign to rename a street—any street—no matter what any street—even this one--for the Chicano civil rights leader.
Cesar Chavez Day Grand Marshalls Luis Ornelas and Sean Cruz presided over the parade, riding in a chopped and channeled yellow ’57 Chevy lowrider with California license plates, red flames and Chicano art painted on its sides, giant foam dice hanging from the rear view mirror, bumping up and down just like in the Cheech and Chong movies.
The event’s organizers ran into an unforeseen problem when the parade reached the neighborhoods in NE Portland where Cesar Chavez Boulevard is only five feet wide, but it is hoped that they will figure out a solution before next year’s 2011 Second Annual Cesar Chavez Day Celebration,when it is also hoped that Mexican American comedian George Lopez will accept an invitation to serve as Grand Marshall.
Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American migrant farmworker, the son of Mexican migrant farmworkers, who became a civil rights leader of national importance, beginning with his work to ban the backbreaking, crippling short hoe then in common use from California to Texas.
He is regarded as a transformational figure in the international struggle for human rights, noted for his Ghandi-like non-violent tactics and self-sacrificing approach.
His many long fasts no doubt shortened his life.