March for Fair Treatment

MODESTO -- Even though he found himself tired, Pedro Sastre's eyes portrayed hope.

Sastre was among many farmworkers who decided to undertake a journey for justice as they marched with the United Farm Workers (UFW) union to Sacramento.

As the marchers came in to the César Chavez Park in downtown Modesto Saturday evening, the 69-year-old Sastre who lives in Porterville, said that he had decided to participate because he had witnessed "many injustices toward farmworkers by their foremen," he said.

Resting under the shade of a tree, Sastre shared his admiration for people's generosity as they came out of their homes to offer him and his fellow marchers some water.

"Thank God people have been treating us very well out in the streets, we have not had any violent incidents," said Sastre, who is originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco.

His beginnings

In the 80s, Sastre became a volunteer for the UFW and participated during the early marches alongside icon and activist César E. Chávez.

Sastre worked for many foremen picking oranges, lemons, tomatoes, and grapes. With time he started noticing many injustices and so he decided to become active with the union until the end.

His biggest satisfaction, he said, was marching many times with Chávez in Delano.

"César was one of ours, always humble but very brave," Sastre said.

When asked what he admired the most about Chávez, Sastre immediately said: "the same thing I admire about Arturo Rodríguez (current UFW president), his humbleness."

The fight as one

When participants started out their 13-day march on Aug. 23 in Madera, spirits were high despite the Central Valley's heat. Yet, by the third day, blisters on their feet and physical fatigue were more noticeable in Sastre and some of the other marchers.

Sastre suffered strong pain in his feet so he had to head back home to see a doctor.

"I hope I can return on Monday and continue marching until we get to Sacramento," said Sastre, who considers the UFW his family.

Besides obtaining Governor Jerry Brown's support, this march is a personal goal for Sastre.

"The ease with which I was able to march in the 80s doesn't compare to today which is much more difficult than it seems," he said. "My feet don't want to continue, they can't continue but my heart is in the fight and wants to make it to Sacramento."

During the journey and at every resting place, many organizations and volunteers collaborated to make sure that marchers had enough to ear, drink and rest.

In Modesto, on Sunday morning the marchers made their way to Manteca as they yelled: "¡Sí se puede, sí se puede!"


Special to Vida en el Valle