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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Should Arizona take a CǸsar Chǭvez holiday?

    Man deserves more than just a building

    This week, CǸsar Chǭvez is being remembered as a Mexican-American labor activist, the leader of the United Farm Workers of America and as a man who dedicated his life to improving the wages and living conditions of migrant field workers. His peaceful tactics, which included boycotts, fasts and strikes, helped farm workers attain the first agricultural labor contracts in America and led to the passage of the 1975 California Agriculture Labor Relations Act, a law that protects workers’ rights to unionize. His reforms gave a voice to disenfranchised people and helped spark the Chicano civil rights movement; as such, his legacy should be known to all Americans.

    Chǭvez was an Arizonan born in Yuma, yet Yuma doesn’t honor him with a paid holiday, while Phoenix, Tempe and Pima County do. Where is the logic in that? The entire state should unite in officially showing its respect for Chǭvez in the same way we do for Martin Luther King Jr. By not observing Chǭvez’s birthday, Arizona is implying that the Chicano movement is not important and that Chǭvez’s efforts on behalf of workers’ rights are not worthy of commemoration.

    It seems that Tucson is finally starting to see the importance of Chǭvez’s legacy; last week the City Council discussed creating an annual holiday in his honor. Councilwoman Carol West suggested that a Chǭvez holiday replace the day off city workers receive for their birthdays each year, reasoning that the creation of an entirely new holiday would be too costly. If Tucsonans are showing interest in preserving Chǭvez’s legacy, and the City Council is supportive, passing a state-paid holiday should be met with similarly little opposition.

    J.J. Federico, a Latin American studies sophomore and employee at the office of Chicano/Hispano student affairs, said members of the UA community have responded positively to the center’s Chǭvez week events, though many students’ knowledge of the leader is limited.

    “”We have had a lot of students and professors come in, our events are packed, yet people don’t know enough about him,”” said Federico.

    Marisol Diaz, the office’s retention specialist, agreed. “”When the (name of the) Economics building was changed in honor of CǸsar Chǭvez, there were protests and opposition by people who had never even heard of him,”” she said. “”Being ignorant about a man who influenced the lives of so many, especially here in the Southwest, is inexcusable.””

    The paid holidays we get in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and veterans of war remind us that our leisure is a result of someone else’s struggle. The fight for a statewide paid holiday in Arizona should be viewed as a tribute to the humanist who transformed the lives of many. In the broader scheme of things, it represents those who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of others. Because the Chicano struggle for fair workers’ rights is so unique to the history of Mexican-Americans in this country, it deserves its own holiday. Claiming that the observance of a state-paid Chǭvez holiday is unnecessary, or falls under the umbrella of Labor Day, dangerously undermines the identity of millions.

    Yusra Tekbali is a junior majoring in journalism and Near Eastern studies. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    Holiday honoring leader unnecessary

    No one would deny the contribution of CǸsar Chǭvez to the rural labor movement, especially in the Southwest, but giving the civil rights leader his own holiday would do little to promote appreciation for his life’s work.

    Frankly, the more holidays we have, the less significant each of them becomes. If every person who has made a significant contribution to American history were awarded his own holiday, then no holiday would really be very special.

    As it stands now, only Christopher Columbus, credited (perhaps incorrectly) with discovering the land that became our nation; George Washington, our first president and hero of the American Revolution; and Martin Luther King Jr., the leading figure of the civil rights movement, have federal holidays in their honor.

    Beyond federal holidays, states, counties and municipalities have the option to declare holidays for their employees, and Texas and California give their employees Chǭvez’s birthday off from work.

    The work of CǸsar Chǭvez is particularly relevant in our state, but it’s just not significant enough to warrant its own statewide holiday.

    Creating the holiday would be little more than an opportunity for legislators to pay lip service to a deceased icon, rather than to educate the youth of our state about who Chǭvez was and what he did.

    Plus, we already have Labor Day as a national holiday, and celebrating the life of CǸsar Chǭvez could just as easily fall under that federally recognized observance.

    Beside the fact that appreciation for all holidays and what they celebrate declines proportionally as the number of holidays increases, no one is stopping to consider the affect that such a holiday would have on the productivity of this state, and that includes students.

    I would love another day off from school just as much as anyone else, but a state-mandated holiday would force UA administrators to rearrange an already delicately fashioned academic calendar, and the lost school day would almost certainly have to be made up at another time.

    Even beyond that, everyone knows how annoying it is when every bank, post office, government building and local business closes down in observance of holidays.

    To really do a service to the legacy of Chǭvez in a state that relies so much on rural labor, we should have an honest discussion in the classroom about his ideas and their impact on the labor and civil rights movements.

    We’re bound to disagree about several of the labor positions Chǭvez promoted, and his ideas, some of which have accused of being socialistic, should not be held up as immune to criticism.

    Realistically, Americans have reverence for national icons due in larger part to what they learn in their history classes than to the fact that they get certain days off from school.

    If the state wants to memorialize CǸsar Chǭvez, that goal would be much better served by education in 11th-grade history than by a state-sponsored holiday.

    Michael Huston is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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