Cesar Chavez legacy leads back to lessons learned in San Jose

EAST SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- On March 31, we celebrate the man who led the movement calling for equal rights and fair treatment for workers, especially farm workers. Before San Jose was the center of Silicon Valley, it was a center for race and social justice. The movement led by Cesar Chavez was born here in the South Bay.

"Cesar was a result of a great community, his Mexican neighborhood in East San Jose," La Raza Historical Society Founding Boardmember Ramon J. Martinez said.

Chavez lived a life of service to the community as a labor leader and civil rights hero. One of his first grape boycotts was held where the Mexican Heritage Plaza stands today. And he learned the skills to lead within the walls of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

Community organizer Fred Ross Jr and Father Donald McDonnel taught Chavez how to organize labor theory and the non-violent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. Their lessons along with the Council of Churches of Santa Clara County laid the groundwork for a revolution led by Chavez.


"History came together here in this neighborhood," Martinez said. "Cesar was the person who took all their knowledge and knew how to use it with the Mexican community, with the nation and the world."

The legacy of Cesar Chavez still lives on in the city of San Jose.

From the Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park Downtown, to Paseo de Cesar Chavez at San Jose State University. His impact will never be forgotten.

Chavez' great niece, Rachel Garcia, still lives on the land where he lived just blocks away from where he learned to start the movement. It is a historical landmark and a significant location to those who followed his lead.

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"He started his work here, his spirit lives here," La Raza Historical Society Secretary Joel Herrera said. "Anytime I have an accomplishment, I come by here to say thank you to him for leading the way."

Cesar Chavez Day is special for many reasons.

On this day across the country and in San Jose, we give back with acts of service.

It's a way to honor a man who changed the world from right here in the Bay Area.

"I am more than proud," Garcia said. "I can't even explain in words the feelings that I get knowing what my Uncle did, not only for the community, but he was doing it for everybody."

One of Chavez' sayings was "Viva La Causa" also known as long live the cause. His cause was to give back to the community through action and for that we say thank you.

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