A Reflection by St. Francis Center Executive Director, Jasmine Bravo
Cesar Chavez is a Mexican American labor and civil rights leader who dedicated his life’s work to fighting for “La Causa”! This translates to “the struggle.” His overall objective was to improve farmworkers’ labor contracts and negotiations by establishing the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1962. He did this with co-founder Dolores Huerta. The NFWA sought to improve the lives of those that worked hard to put food on American’s tables while facing starvation themselves. The beauty behind Cesar Chavez is that he always handled his fight for La Causa under peaceful protest and with dignity, as taught by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Saint Francis of Assisi.
I spoke with my father, who arrived here in California when he was only 16 years from Mexico. He recalls La Causa and remembers watching a young Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta fighting for farmworker rights as he picked a variety of fruit, grapes, and legumes in the fields of Delano, CA. He recalled how well-spoken and stern they were as they presented farm owners with a peaceful boycott that drew considerable support throughout California. My father worked hard; he worked and received whatever wages he was offered regardless of whether it was fair, as did many Mexican labor workers in those times. Any money earned from working on the farms was saved and delivered to families back home in Mexico. My 16-year-old father did not have the opportunity to complete his schooling because he dedicated every moment to work to support his family back home. He recalls being hungry most of the time and having to be up as early as 3 in the morning and up until odd hours of the night working in the fields, rain or shine. This was why my father immigrated here to the US, to offer his family a better opportunity. Cesar Chavez not only helped improve labor conditions during his time, but his legacy has allowed families to provide future generations with a better life.
“From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”Cesar Chavez
I find this quote from Cesar Chavez to be beautiful and especially meaningful when thinking about our work every day at St. Francis Center. Our motto, Serving Hope, means more to us than filling empty bellies — it also means feeding the soul. Together, we work as a community to support the hopeless. We know how important it is to take the time to look our guests in the eye, greet them by name, and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our staff builds a rapport with guests; we learn their stories and needs beyond immediate hunger relief. Our comprehensive approach and spirit of community help foster trust in our programs, increasing the likelihood of repeat visits, which creates opportunities for long-term solutions. We come together as a community to make sure that those who are most in need feel empowered and supported, and when they are ready, we walk with them every step of the way on their path to stability. The legacy of visionaries like Cesar Chavez, who paved the way for many who were voiceless and oppressed, continues today in our work: standing up for those whom society turns its back on.
With remembrance and gratitude, we celebrate Cesar Chavez and his essential fight for justice.
Peace and Blessings,
Jasmine Bravo, Executive Director