Published In

Oregon Humanities Magazine: Push Issue

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2019


Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), Migrant agricultural laborers -- Labor unions -- United States, Discourse analysis


On a rainy afternoon in January 2010, I drove to my old neighborhood in Southeast Portland to attend the César Chávez Boulevard sign unveiling ceremony at Central Christian Church. The event marked the culmination of the effort to rename a major street after the civil rights champion. After saying hello to a few friends, I sat alone in a pew toward the back of the mostly empty space. Light reflected off of the words César E. Chávez Blvd. on the large street sign placed under the dais. I was expecting busloads of school-aged children and families to be there, but few were in attendance. City officials, supporters of the street renaming, and members of the opposition remarked on the long-drawn-out battle and their emotions in the wake of the renaming process. I followed the group outside, where the subdued atmosphere continued. Organizers removed a gold sheet, unveiling the new sign. I snapped a picture and left to escape the cold.

I learned about Chávez, one of the greatest leaders in US Latino history, several years prior to the renaming. It was while enrolled in a Chicano/Latino Studies course at Portland State University that I first learned about the navy veteran and civil rights activist who was born in my hometown of Yuma, Arizona. His work as a labor leader, alongside Dolores Huerta, centered on nonviolent means to raise awareness of farmworkers’ labor conditions; this work earned him national recognition, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously. Attending the sign’s unveiling was a part of my effort to pay tribute to the movement to recognize the contributions of Latinos—including my own—to the Pacific Northwest.


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