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Sunday, March 09, 2014

"Just a Thought" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 3-9

Just a Thought: Si Se Puede
By Steve Walker

The upcoming Cesar E. Chavez March reminds us of the celebration of the legacy of the civil rights activist who with Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association later known as the United Farm Workers Union.

A Mexican-American, Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist with the help of the labor movement who supported his nonviolent tactics. Those tactics helped the farm workers’ struggle become a moral cause with national support.

His famous expression, “Si Se Puede,” has become synonymous with the struggle of all minimum wage workers to receive better working conditions as well as the better wages

His birthday March 31st is a Texas State Holiday and in San Antonio Durango Boulevard was re-named Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard a few years ago after many years of the Latino population lobbying for the name change along with local Icon Jaime Martinez.

For many immigrants over the years who have crossed the border from Mexico with the ultimate dream of obtaining full citizenship, many of them have worked the fields to obtain a better life in America and Texas in particular.

As one who has marched for the 18th consecutive year in San Antonio, to honor the late Cesar E. Chavez who died in 1993, I am proud to say I have not only met Cesar Chavez, but as a KENS-5 reporter in 1982, I interviewed him.

Last year around this time I wrote a column on that interview on his striking soft spoken, articulate calm demeanor. I equated him to another activist for civil rights, Mahatma Gandhi.

To this day I am in awe that it was my fortune to do the interview over senior reporters. If I remember they asked who wanted to do the story and I had enough sense to raise my hand first. I vividly recall questioning him on his mission to protect the farm workers.

He spoke about the discrimination against field workers, forced into the hot sun for long hours of grueling work and low compensation.

Ironically many low wage earners in other jobs today are facing some of the same discrimination and inadequate pay as the farm workers before them. Ironically you could say History repeats itself.

As one who taught in Southside ISD in the late 70s, many of my students were the children of migrant worker’s who toiled in the fields in and around San Antonio. I was acutely aware of what he was saying in the interview.

Ironically I had my own personal experience of working in the fields when I travelled to Israel in 72 and worked on a kibbutz for only a week. It gave me a small taste what it was like to work in the fields as I picked apples and tomatoes.

For anybody who has ever worked a field picking commodities, it is back breaking work. Anyone who tells you it is not uncomfortable bending over for eight or more hours a day picking whatever in a field, is not telling you the truth.

Remember March 31st to celebrate the holiday by remembering the contributions of Cesar E. Chavez to the struggle. To him I say, “Si Se Puede.”  

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”  

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

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