Google is renowned for its doodles, the images embedded into the search engine’s logo on special occasions. This Easter—March 31—Google is not recognizing the spiritual or secular holiday. Instead, for the first time, Google recognizes Cesar Chavez, the farm worker, the union leader, the Chicano.
While this doodle may upset more people than John Lennon’s 1966 comment that the Beatles are “more popular than Jesus,” giving prominence to this often disregarded American is admirable.
In 2011, President Obama declared March 31 Cesar Chavez Day in recognition of the leader’s birthday. Obama now needs to make this a national holiday.
Chavez was a leader in the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Along with Dolores Huerta, he founded the United Farm Workers, a union dedicated to fighting for farm workers’ rights. They fought for bathrooms, safe housing, decent pay, safe tools. Later, they fought against pesticides.
To gain national attention to these efforts, Chavez and Huerta organized a grape boycott. Then in 1966, they led a famous 340-mile march from Delano, California to Sacramento. An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe led the march, reminding us that Chavez was a man of faith.
Chavez’s most recognized sacrifice is his 1968 fast in protest of unfair labor conditions. When the fast ended, Robert Kennedy joined Chavez for a meal.
In 2003, the U.S. Post Office released a commemorative stamp celebrating the union leader. I bought one that year, the year I finished graduate school, and keep it in a small frame near the place where I work, where I write.
It’s seems foolish that a search engine’s doodle should receive so much attention. For Chicanos, however, this decision affirms what we’ve always believed—Cesar Chavez merits national recognition.
My father came to this country as a farmworker, a bracero, in 1957. He heard Chavez speak once. Suprisingly, it was my father’s work in the fields that opened the doors for me on National Public Radio over ten years ago. An essay about my father’s work and my decision to become a writer aired on All Things Considered in August 2002.
When I started my teaching career, my mother who worked in a warehouse, told me, “You always join the union.” I did. And while I’ve questioned many times the logic of my union’s leaders and its members, I still see the value, the power, the need for organized labor—especially for teachers. We just need to be better about communicating what we’re fighting for.
I hope that on this day of rest, those of us who belong to and lead labor unions can devote a moment to self-reflection and search within ourselves for an answer to this question: “What would Cesar Chavez say today about our labor efforts?”
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