Thousands show up at La Paz for Chávez Monument event
Vida en el Valle
(Published Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 12:49PM)
KEENE -- As they stood in front of the new César Chávez National Monument, several Latino officials credited the farmworker union leader with having paved the way to their political success.
Los Ángeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Chávez's movement spurred necessary social change, which, in part, allowed him to become the city's first mayor in more than a century.
"Once social change begins, it can not be reversed," he said. "You can not humiliate the person who feels proud. You can not oppress people who are not afraid anymore."
Labor secretary Hilda Solís said Chávez, the daughter of Latino immigrants, said Chávez, "brought the plight of farmworkers to anyone who would listen, and those who wouldn't."
"In some ways, it's because of him that President Barack Obama gave me the honor of a lifetime by being named the first Latina to head a major cabinet agency," she said.
Arturo S. Rodríguez, president of the United Farm Workers of América, echoed the sentiments of Villaraigosa, Solís, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who also addressed an estimated 7,000 people.
"Four years ago, President Obama believed in 'Sí se puede,'" he said. "He used his power to say, 'yes, we can have two Latino cabinet secretaries. Yes, we can have the first Latina Supreme Court justice."
The president also used that power to protect undocumented youth from the threat of deportation, and to establish a national monument at La Paz that, "will be a source of pride for all Americans who care about social justice," Rodríguez said.
Paul Chávez, César's son and the chairman of the César Chávez Foundation also spoke at the event.
Among those in attendance were union co-founder Dolores Huerta; state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter; actress and Voto Latino founder Rosario Dawson; and singer and songwriter Kris Kristofferson.
A week ago, National Park Service officials figured about 4,000 people would attend the dedication. The official attendance Monday was 6,600, even after about 1,000 people saw their invitations rescinded by the UFW and Chávez foundation amid concerns about overbooking.
Among those turned down was Maricela Mares-Alatorre, a community activist from Kettleman City, an impoverished farming community north of Bakersfield where locals suspect a local toxic waste dump is the cause of severe birth defects.
"We were uninvited Sunday night," said Mares-Alatorre, who had planned to accompany 13 other Kettleman City residents including her father, a farmworker who marched in Chávez's funeral procession in 1993. "They said they were overbooked. We're heartbroken."
-- McClatchy News Service contributed to this report.