Roughly four decades after Cesar Chavez led an uprising of farm workers to improve wages and benefits, the National Park Service is taking public comment on a plan to memorialize the union leader within the park system.
At issue is how best to recognize the work of Chavez and the farm labor movement.
"Cesar Chavez is one of the great civil rights icons of our country's history," said Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in a press statement. "His leadership, tireless work ethic, and selfless sacrifice helped forge a new era of justice for millions of farm workers and gave them hope for a better future, both for themselves and for their children. Recognizing the sites that are significant to his life and movement will ensure that his story - and the story of all who struggled with him, is remembered, honored, and passed along to future generations."
More than 100 sites significant to Cesar Chavez and/or the farm labor movement in the western United States were evaluated during the study process. Of these sites, five were found nationally significant: the Forty Acres National Historic Landmark in Delano, California; the Filipino Community Hall, also in Delano; Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz in Keene, California; the Santa Rita Center in Phoeniz, Arizona; and the 1966 Delano to Sacramento march route.
Eleven additional sites were identified as potentially nationally significant, needing further research, and twenty-four sites were identified as potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Five management alternatives were developed to explore a range of approaches to manage, protect, or restore significant resources and to provide or enhance public use and enjoyment:
Alternative A: Continuation of Current Management. Sites, organizations, and programs significant to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement would continue to operate independently without additional NPS management or assistance other than that available through existing authorities.
Alternative B: National Network. Congress would establish a farm labor movement network to facilitate preservation and education efforts related to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement. Coordinated by the NPS, the program would consist of an integrated network of historic sites, museums and interpretive programs, coordinated with national, regional and local organizations.
Alternative C: National Historic Trail. Congress would establish a national historic trail (NHT) that would commemorate the 1966 Delano to Sacramento march.
Alternative D: National Historic Site. Congress would establish a national historic site (NHS) at the Forty Acres in Delano, CA as a unit of the national park system that would preserve and interpret resources significant to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement.
Alternative E: National Historical Park. Congress would establish a national historical park (NHP) that would incorporate nationally significant sites in California and Arizona related to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement. These sites would include the Forty Acres, Filipino Community Hall, Nuestra Senora Reina de La Paz (La Paz) and the Santa Rita Center. The Secretary of the Interior would be authorized to add significant associated sites or districts to the national historical park that would be owned and operated by park partners.
At the National Parks Conservation Association, Ron Sundergill, the group's Pacific regional director, said “Cesar Chavez has been an inspiration to generations of Americans and adding a national park unit to honor his legacy would help better diversify our National Park System and reflect the makeup of our country. As one of the largest curators of Asian, Latino, Indian and African American history and culture, not one of the 395 park units honors the legacy of an individual contemporary Latino.
“Chavez is recognized as one of the most important U.S. Latino figures in the 20th century due to his leadership of the farmworkers movement in the 1960s. His advocacy efforts helped secure the passage of the first U.S. law that recognized farmworkers rights to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining. As president, he steered the union to a series of unprecedented victories, including securing contracts that covered more than 100,000 farmworkers, raising wages, funding health care and pension plans, mandating the provision of drinking water and restroom facilities in the fields, regulating the use of pesticides, and establishing a fund for community service projects."
The draft study report is available for public comment through November 14. Comments can be made via email, through the Park Service's website, via mail, or at one of the following public meetings:
San Jose: Thursday, October 20, 2011. 7-9 p.m.
Mayfair Community Center, 2039 Kammerer Avenue, San Jose, CA 95116
Delano: Monday, October 24, 2011. 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The Forty Acres, 30168 Garces Highway, Delano, CA 93216
Coachella: Tuesday, October 25, 2011. 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 49-601 Avenida de Oro, Coachella, CA 92236
Oxnard: Wednesday, October 26, 2011. 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cafe on A-The Rudy F. Acuna Gallery and Cultural Arts Center, 438 South A St,
Oxnard, CA 93030
Los Angeles: Thursday, October 27, 2011. 7-9 p.m.
Los Angeles River Center, 570 W. Avenue 26, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Salinas: Thursday, November 10, 2011. 6:30-8:30 p.m.
National Steinbeck Center, One Main Street, Salinas, CA 93901
*Phoenix: Wednesday, November 2 or 3, 2011. (Date and location pending)
*Yuma: Thursday, November 2 or 3, 2011. 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Date pending)
Yuma Civic Center, 1440 W. Desert Hills Drive, Yuma, AZ 85365