Thousands march for civil rights and visibility.
On Saturday morning, thousands of enthusiastic people gathered outside Guadalupe Arts and Cultural Center on the city’s West Side to march in honor of Cesar E. Chavez, a civil rights activist and labor leader.
The march, put together by the Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Foundation, began at 10 a.m. after a worship service and went down Guadalupe Street into downtown and ended at a parking lot a block from the Institute of Texan Cultures off Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.
Many of the marchers brought homemade signs with messages calling for social justice and political reform.
The flags of Mexico, Texas, Pride, and the iconic United Farm Workers flag, which has become more than a symbol for exploited field workers, flew high and throughout.
“The flag represents everything previous generations of my family had to endure working in the fields to make ends meet,” said Michael Luz, who traveled from Laredo to be with family and friends during the march.
He has the flag’s eagle tattooed on his inner right forearm.
“It represents their struggles and to march in honor of my grandfather, who passed away earlier this year at age 87, who himself was a field worker, means that I will continue to be an advocate and will continue to honor all his hard work and sacrifices.”
There were many groups present, such as Crusade 300, Si Se Puede New Braunfels, LULAC Concilio Zapatista, and Carnalismo National Brown Berets, a pro-Chicano organization that advocates for equality.
The march keeps Chavez’s fight for justice, peace, equality, visibility and civil rights alive.
“I feel our Latino communities are not as politically active,” said James Montez, 19, a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“This is my first time participating, and I want to be more politically involved and try to help get our voices heard, for our rights and for the community.”
Some of those marching have participated for many years.
“I have been marching since I was three,” said Alejandra Gutierrez, music director at campus radio station KSYM FM 90.1.
“It’s a family tradition we do every year, and to me, this march means communities coming together to memorialize the great history of Cesar Chavez and all that he fought to achieve.”
Chavez was a strong promoter of field workers’ rights, unionism and aggression, but nonviolent tactics in helping bring the workers’ struggles to recognition.
Chavez left school in seventh grade to become a full-time migrant worker to help support his family, who lost their home and land during the Great Depression and worked in the fields of California picking cotton, peas, lettuce, cherries and other produce.
Chavez became involved in politics in 1952 when he met Fred Ross, a community organizer.
He founded the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group.
Additionally, he traveled across California and urged Mexican-Americans to vote and gave speeches in support of workers’ rights.
“It is 2018 and we still have exploitation of field workers,” Gutierrez said.
“Living wages and their overall rights in their workplace will continue to be one of the main focuses of this march.
“I’m marching for them and for the Chicano movement in general, for unity and visibility today,” he said.
Gutierrez hopes the march changes people’s perspectives to be more active about making changes through activism and social organizations.
“America is really bleeding right now,” she said.
“This march is much more than just farm workers; it is about the rights of the immigrant, women’s rights, and all the rights of the underprivileged, and we’re creating history as this is happening right now.”
Joyce Martinez, whose father-in-law Jaime P. Martinez was the founder of the march, has been participating for 20 years.
“This is the first march without him,” Martinez said. “This march goes back to our mission of building bridges for unity, non-violence and social justice.”
Martinez marches every year to continue her father-in-law’s legacy.
“For as long as I can, I will keep coming out to march and if I can’t walk any more, I will find a way!”
The march, which lasted roughly two hours, brought curious onlookers to the sidewalks.
“We’re on vacation and we see people marching and we were interested to know what was going on,” said Roger Evans, whose family was visiting from Davenport, Iowa. “I know a little about Chavez and I think his efforts deserve continued recognition.”
“Davenport’s Hispanic population is very small, so to be here in San Antonio on this day is positively overwhelming because we’re extremely supportive of these types of things,” said his wife, Martha.
The march ended with a speech from Mayor Ron Nirenberg and various CECLEF and LULAC members.
“We march to embrace not silence, but nonviolence,” said Nirenberg to a crowd of hundreds, packed the parking lot where the march culminated.
“Cesar Chavez made the voices of the disadvantaged and working people heard through peaceful actions. That is the powerful tradition he shared with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We must keep pushing for progress until we achieve social justice.”
Jaime Martinez and Chavez were good friends and worked together as activists.
“They spent much time here in our city when Cesar was organizing in Texas,” Nirenberg said.
“Jaime’s mission was to educate people about Cesar’s life and legacy and to serve as an advocate for the Latino community and for all of our citizens.”