Fed up with migrant workers being sprayed with pesticide, unsanitary living conditions on the farms, no electricity, no water and no bathrooms, César Chávez, a former migrant worker himself, was motivated to start the National Farm Worker Association (NFWA).
Through non-violent protest, fasting, and with the strength of the union behind him, Chávez along with civil rights activist, Dolores Fernandez Huerta, Father Donald McDonnell, and Fred Ross Sr., brought the plight of the fieldworkers out in the open.
Before Chávez, Huerta and the NFWA, workers' temporary housing was strictly segregated by race, and workers sometimes had to pay more than two dollars per day to live in unheated metal shacks--many times infested with mosquitoes.
The Great Depression of 1929 hit the devout Catholic family hard. Librado and Juana Chávez--César’s parents--one time land and grocery store owners lost it all when the economy/stock market of North America and Europe crashed—yet, César’s parents never swayed from helping anyone they could and raised their children to do the same.
Like so many did during rough times, César went to work in the fields at a young age--actually ten years old. He became a full-time migrant worker three years later when his father was injured in a car accident; he also worked to make sure his mother would not have to work the fields herself.
Chávez was born March, 1927, in San Luis, Arizona. His nonviolent approach to achieving better wages and better working and living conditions for migrant workers was influenced by Donald McDonnell, a priest who spoke Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and was a passionate advocate for the poor.
Father McDonnell introduced César to the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, and Mohandas Ghandi—a lawyer and civil rights activist—highlighting the idea of non-violent protest being a force for positive change.
Father McDonnell was also instrumental in the creation of the NFWA/UFW when he introduced Chávez to labor leader, Fred Ross Sr.—Ross taught Chávez the organizing concepts Chávez applied in creating the labor union.
¡Sí, se puede! (Yes, one can!) Yes, it can be done.
César Chávez stars Michael Peña, Rosario Dawson plays Dolores Huerta, John Malkovitch; Lisa Brenner; and America Ferrera as Helen Chávez.
Opens Friday, March 28, 2014