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Tucsonans celebrate Cesar Chavez Day

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Tucsonans celebrate Cesar Chavez Day

Entertainment, speakers follow 12th annual march

  • Tucsonans in the César E. Chávez March in 2011.
    Arizona César E. Chávez Holiday CoalitionTucsonans in the César E. Chávez March in 2011.
  • César Chávez in 1974.

Saturday is César Chávez Day and Tucson will honor the late labor leader and activist with a march and celebration on the city's South Side.

The Arizona César E. Chávez Holiday Coalition will lead marchers from St. John the Evangelist Church at Ajo Way and 12th Avenue, east on Veterans Boulevard, south on Sixth Ave to Rudy Garcia Park at Sixth and Irvington Road.

Members of the community spoke at 9 a.m. at the church's school and the 12th annual march will began at 10.

There will be music, food, speeches and entertainment throughout the day at Rudy Garcia Park, formerly Rodeo Park, said Coalition spokeswoman Laura Dent in a news release.

The celebration's theme this year is "Remembering the Life of Richard Chávez," who died in July. Richard Chávez, César's brother, was instrumental in the struggle for the rights of farmworkers for more than 40 years, Dent said.

Richard Chávez participated in Tucson's annual march honoring his brother several times and spoke at area schools about their work, Dent said.

Cesar Chávez founded the United Farm Workers Union with fellow Mexican American activist Dolores Huerta in 1962. With their motto "Sí, Se Puede," or "Yes, We Can," the UFW fought for the rights of workers who labored in the West's farm fields.

"César and Dolores are an inspiration to the world, youth, and Latinos everywhere. They inspired by giving and not giving up," said Tucson High student Guadalupe Blancarte in the news release.

Chávez died in 1993. In 2011, President Barack Obama declared March 31 — the labor leader's birthday — César Chávez Day.

"'Sí, Se Puede!' is not just a catchy phrase, it's a way of life, of not giving up, never losing hope." said Trinity Canada, a Tucson High School student, in the press release.

¡Sí Se Puede!

The motto of the United Farm Workers, "Sí Se Puede," was coined in 1972 during Cesar Chavez’s 24-day fast in protest of an Arizona law limiting farmworkers’ rights.

Although there are conflicting accounts about how the phrase came about, it is believed to have happened in the Santa Rita Center, a community center in Phoenix that was Chavez’s home during the fast.

Concerned that the fast wouldn’t be an effective protest in Arizona, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, told Chavez, “No sí puede,” or, “No, we can’t.

Chavez turned the phrase to, “Sí se puede,” or “Yes we can.”

The phrase caught on, and since then it has become a rallying cry for labor unions and was adopted by Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.

Source: Cronkite News Service and Raymond Rast, professor of history at California State University, Fullerton

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