March 31 was Cesar Chavez’s birthday and in many parts of the United States, there were marches and celebrations to commemorate his life and contributions to making our food supply healthy and the farm workers working environment better.
Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to the betterment of our farm workers and healthier food supply by protesting, advocating and standing up for the workers who had no voice nor could most speak on their own behalf.
In Santa Ana and Orange County, California, I coordinated the boycott of some stores and worked alongside of other professors and college and university students to bring awareness to the people about the problems of the dangerous pesticides in our food supply.
Cesar Chavez was a selfless and committed person to the welfare of the workers in the fields and grape vineyards. He protested and demanded the changes that were slowly coming about because of his tireless work. We, the consumers, can now have better and healthier fresh fruits and vegetables because of his advocacy.
Because I had never worked on a farm or as a fruit picker, I decided to go and live with a farm family in the San Joaquin Valley.
The home was owned by the “company,” cement floors, bathroom, a toilet and a shower had behind a plastic curtain next to a four-burner small stove, a sofa and a bedroom divided by a cotton sheet.
The family of four, their father, mother, a 5-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.
Much against Cesar’s advice, I went and stayed in this place which supposed to have been the “best.”
First night, my bed, the sofa, with springs poked me every time I turned. It was a sleepless night. Second day, I went to work, had bean burritos and warm water from a jug. That night, I was too tired to eat. I walked and watched the people sitting in the shade, some talking and laughing, some singing.
I cried and cried, not because of my discomfort, but because I kept thinking of the children and the sign I sad seen written on a wall, “Sal si Puedes.”
I had to leave my “home” away from home. I had gotten what many workers have, Valley fever.
My few days as a farm worker made me and forever will be an advocate of fair, healthy working environments for all types of workers.
Thanks Cesar Chavez, you will always be remembered by your many followers. Vive Cesar Chavez.
Enriqueta Lopez Ramos, PhD. San Benito