“Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak… Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.” – Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31st, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona. When his family lost their land and farm during the Great Depression, they moved to California to work as migrant laborers. Cesar Chavez worked as a farm laborer from seventh grade until 1952, when he became an organizer for Community Service Organization. In 1962, he and Dolores Huerta would found the organization that became the United Farm Workers.

On September 8th, 1965, the Delano Grape Strike was initiated by Filipino workers who were then joined by Mexican workers. The five-year campaign used many tactics of nonviolent action, including consumer boycotts, picketing, demonstrations, and a 300 mile pilgrimage through California’s Central Valley to the state capital, Sacramento. The rallying cry of “Huelga!” (Strike! in Spanish) echoed through the 2,000 farmworkers who supported the strike. The United Farm Workers also convinced the longshoremen in San Francisco harbor to refuse to load the grape harvest onto ships, leaving them to rot on the docks.

Cesar Chavez was a vegan, saying, “We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to make all people understand that animals are fellow creatures, that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves. And that’s the basis for peace. The basis for peace is respecting all creatures. . . . We cannot hope to have peace until we respect everyone–respect ourselves and respect animals and all living things. . . . “

According to the Cesar Chavez Foundation, even before he won union contracts, Chavez began organizing services for the farmworkers. These projects included a death benefit, a credit union, and a cooperative gas station.  Chavez was inspired by people like Mahatma Gandhi and Sidney Hillman, the head of the old Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, which during the 1920s established low-cost cooperative housing, unemployment insurance and a bank for union members.

The Foundation website says, “Cesar knew it would take more than a union to overcome the poverty and discrimination farm workers endure; it would take a movement.”

Cesar Chavez Day, commemorating Chavez’ birthday on March 31st, is a day to celebrate the efforts of Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and to help build a culture of active nonviolence that strives for justice, equality, dignity, and respect. Does your community celebrate the day? If not, how could you help initiate an event?

Learn more: from the Chavez Foundation

Photo credit: By Movimiento – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19596843

This article is from Rivera Sun’s book of nonviolent histories that have made our world. Click here for more information.


Rivera Sun is a change-maker, a cultural creative, a protest novelist, and an advocate for nonviolence and social justice. She’s a love-based revolutionary and the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, The Way Between and ten other fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Her essays and writings are syndicated by Peace Voice, and have appeared in over a hundred journals nationwide. Rivera Sun speaks and facilitates workshops in strategy for nonviolent change across the country and around the world. She connects the dots between the issues, shares solutionary ideas, and inspires people to step up to the challenge of being a part of the story of change in our times. www.riverasun.com