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Tucson recognizes César Chávez Day as official holiday

Courtesy of Cesar Chavez Foundation

Cesar Chavez was a religious civil rights activist. The Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday marked the first time a labor leader or Latino would be honored with a public holiday. The holiday has been celebrated in California since 2000.
Courtesy of Cesar Chavez Foundation Cesar Chavez was a religious civil rights activist. The Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday marked the first time a labor leader or Latino would be honored with a public holiday. The holiday has been celebrated in California since 2000.

_The original version of this story incorrectly stated that fall 2013 marked the 10th anniversary of César Chávez’s death. It was actually the 20th anniversary of his death. The Daily Wildcat apologizes for the error.
_
The Tucson city council voted last week to officially celebrate March 31 as César Chávez Day.

After years of efforts, the Arizona César E. Chávez Holiday Coalition succeeded in earning recognition of the holiday from the city of Tucson. The group also received support from the UA and the Tucson community.

“[The Department of Mexican American Studies] joined enthusiastically with those calling for a holiday to honor César E. Chávez in the City of Tucson,” Richard Ruiz, head of the MAS department, said in a letter to the office of the Mayor & Council and the City Manager.

Ruiz said he also believes that the implementation of this holiday is long overdue, as other cities and counties have already declared a holiday in honor of Chávez. The day is officially celebrated by the states of California, Colorado and Texas.

“César Chávez was a man who made a difference for everyone in this country and beyond,” said Socorro Carrizosa, the program director of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs. “I don’t think people understand the influence and impact he had in our lives.”

Chávez is best-known for working with migrant farmers and trying to better the situation of day laborers, Carrizosa said. He added that people often forget that those day laborers are the people that put food on our tables every day.

“He brought a lot of attention to the rights of farm workers, and did it in a very peaceful, non-violent way,” said Regina Romero, Ward 1 council member for the City of Tucson and co-founder of the Arizona César E. Chávez Holiday Coalition. “He did amazing things for millions of people in this country, it should be recognized and is a part of our history.”

Chávez has a real connection to Arizona, the city of Tucson and UA, according to Romero. Chávez was born near Yuma, Ariz., in 1927 and died in San Luis, Ariz., in 1993. His mother grew up in Tucson and worked as a maid for a former UA President.

The UA also honored Chávez by naming what was formerly the Economics building the César E. Chávez building in 2003. This past fall marked the 20th anniversary of his death.

“We moved forward with the naming of César E. Chávez building in 2003 because we felt that he was a man that deserved this type of honor,” Carrizosa said.

Because of what the UA did to honor Chávez, generations of students who may be unfamiliar with him and unaware of his contributions to society will honor him by walking through the doors of the building, Ruiz said.

According to Romero, honoring Chávez with a holiday was one of her main goals when she was elected six years ago, but the timing wasn’t right.

“We were facing an economic crisis, [César E. Chávez Day] was always talked about but kind of put off,” Romero said. “There were other economic situations. … We just couldn’t advance this idea, up until today, up until this year.”

This holiday is not only to honor the legacy of Chávez, but also to educate our youth about him and his impact, Romero said.

“The reason we want to have a holiday is to remind people about Chávez’s legacy,” Romero said. “Going to the schools and teaching the youth about Chávez is an important part of continuing his legacy.”

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