Today we celebrate the birthday of Cesar Chavez, born March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona and whose family lived briefly on Garfield Avenue in the La Colonia neighborhood in Oxnard.
Agricultural policy and the need for agricultural labor has always brought waves of immigrants into the United States. During World War II, the Mexican Agricultural Workers Program, known as the bracero program, brought two million Mexican men to work in the fields on temporary guest worker contracts.
It is important to remember that skilled American domestic workers also tended the fields during this time. Many of these workers were of Mexican and Filipino descent. The United Farmer Workers (UFW) union, started in 1966 by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, fought to reclaim rights for these domestic workers, many of whom were overlooked for work in favor of the Mexican guest workers, who tolerated a lower wage. The UFW and Cesar Chavez fought for better wages, working conditions, and human rights for domestic labor, while at the same time fighting to stop the Mexican bracero program. The UFW used food, specifically boycotting of certain brands, to raise awareness of the problems facing farm laborers. Chavez’s vision of political and economic emancipation for farm workers, La Causa, or “The Cause,” was the political and artistic touchstone of the Chicano movement.
The organization of farm labor, especially in California, helped transform and shape physical and cultural landscapes across the country and change what and how we eat in America
Jorge Corralejo, a longtime local activist and former resident of Moorpark, worked with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. During his time with the UFW, Jorge took photos of marches, conferences, speeches, and gatherings. The two images you see here are a small portion of the body of work that Jorge captured on film.
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