The Cesar E. Chavez Memorial

The City of San Fernando was undeniably the first city in the world to celebrate the Cesar E. Chavez holiday even before it was recognized as a State Holiday by the Governor of California in the year 2000. Today, years after its first celebration, the City of San Fernando remains united in the basic principles of non-violence, education, and higher education.

For the past decades, the Cesar Chavez Commemorative Committee of San Fernando has paid tribute to Cesar E. Chavez through the re-creation of Chavez’s great march from Delano, Ca. to Sacramento. Mass is usually held at the Santa Rosa Church, in the City of San Fernando, with a theme that surrounds the traditional events.

The César Chávez Memorial

The César Chávez Memorial honors the legacy and work of the late farmworker leader. The construction of the memorial was the culmination of efforts by many community members who recognize Chavez’s impact to promote justice and equity for all Americans.

The memorial was developed on a 23,000 square foot area of land in the City of San Fernando. The memorial includes four separate pieces of art placed in a park-like setting. The City along with various community organizations sponsors an annual march in honor of Chávez. The City of San Fernando, preceding the State of California’s decision, became the first in the nation to designate his birthday, March 31, an official holiday.

The memorial contains four separate elements, reflecting the life of César Chávez and the farmworkers’ struggle. A life-size impressive statue of César Chávez is placed in front of ten figures that resent the farmworkers’ plight and eventual empowerment. Other features also designed by the artist include a fountain and mural. The fountain is in the shape of the United Farmworkers (UFW) eagle symbol, with the “César Chávez Prayer” inscribed on one side and a painting on the other side. The mural is 100 feet in length and provides a visual chronology of Chávez’s life that highlights his legacy.

The artist selected to design the Memorial, Ignacio Gomez, is a well-known community artist who has been involved in various art projects in Los Angeles and throughout the nation.

The Legacy of César Chávez

César Chávez is one of Marica’s most important civil rights leaders who became a true role model for young people across the world. He proved that just one person could make a difference was able to impact the social structure and conscience of the nation. He came from poverty and at a very early age began working alongside his parents as a farmworker. César knew first hand about the hard work and struggle of the farmworker.

In 1993, on April 29th, César Chávez was posthumously honored by the ones he had been leading in his life when over 40,000 mourners came together in Delano to honor this charismatic labor leader at his funeral. At age 66, César Chávez passed away in his sleep on April 23, 1993, near Yuma, Arizona. On August 8, 1994, President Clinton posthumously awarded him the Medal of Freedom through his wife Helen.

Today the movement and the struggle to secure labor rights continue. César Chávez may not be physically present among the organizers, but many people still draw inspiration and encouragement from his life devotion to non-violent social change. For more SFSU heroes, check out this page.

César Chávez Statue

The Memorial Plaza memorializes César’s courage and compassion, his determination, and his gentleness that helped him in bis battles to win dignity and justice for all. The statue of César Chávez shows him slowly walking as he shows loving support to the statue of 10 farmworkers directly in front of him. Cast in bronze, over six feet in height, his right hand is releasing a dove of peace and in the other hand, he is holding books. Although his formal childhood education was limited, later in life he proved that education was his passion and César continued to practice his belief that “the end of all education should surely be service to others.

Farmworker Statue

Ten life-size figures represent the ten thousand marchers who arrived in Sacramento at the California State Capitol after a grueling 340-mile march on April 24, 1966. This arduous ordeal lasted 25 days and began in the fields of Delano with a modest 68 people. This historic moment marked the beginning of both national as well as international awareness of the farmworker¹s plight.

The first four figures in this piece are close to the ground demonstrating the early days when farmworkers had to stoop over and work with backbreaking short hoes. The short hoes that are depicted were eventually outlawed due to the efforts of the César Chávez and the UFW. The next five figures are completely upright with flags in their hands instead of workers’ tools, to symbolize the many marches workers made to assure the basic human rights this particular community had been denied. When seen from a distance the piece profoundly displays the plight of the farmworkers’ harsh existence and their eventual ascension to dignity and self-empowerment.

Also interesting is this article about the Cesar Chavez Student Center that has provided support, mentorship, and job training through internships for underprivileged youth in the San Francisco area. For quite a few years now, the CCSC has supported youth through get-back-to-school programs and career assessments so they’ll have better career options.

The Eagle Fountain

The fountain, in the shape of an eagle, symbolizes the United Farm Workers’ spirit and is based on the Aztec eagle that represents dignity and pride. On the street-facing side of the fountain the César Chávez prayer for the Farm Worker’s Struggle is imprinted and reads:

Show me all the suffering, the most miserable;
And I’ll know the plight of my people.

Free me so I can pray for others;
As you are present in all persons.

Help me take responsibility for my life;
And make that I’m free at last.

Give me some patience and honesty;
In hopes that I can work with others.

Bring on celebration and song;
So the Spirit among us stays alive.

Let that Spirit grow and flourish;
And that we’ll never tire of our struggle.

Let’s remember the ones that died for justice;
As they gave us life.

Help us so we can love even the one who’s hating us;
So we can change the world.

On the other side of the fountain, the artist will paint a vista of an agricultural scene representing the fields throughout California.

The fountain will be constructed of concrete blocks and waterproofed. Water will flow over both sides of the eagle. The dimensions are 6 feet high, 15 feet long and 3 feet wide, with a base to recycle the water.

César Chávez Mural

This mural painted by Mr. Gomez provides a visual chronology depicting the life of César Chávez beginning in a self-made adobe house with his humble parents and as a young man working in the fields. César is seen as a young sailor in 1944 serving in the Navy overseas during World War II. The mural then illustrates his 1948 marriage to Helen and the formation of the United Farm Workers Union.

Inspirational moments in history that exemplify the life of César Chávez are portrayed such as his “1968 Delano Fast” where he was joined by Robert F. Kennedy to break bread at the conclusion of the fast. Other milestones include that Mexican President Salinas de Gortari awarded César Chávez the highest Mexican Civilian award, El Aguila Azteca, and in 1994 President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded the United States Medal of Freedom to César Chávez.

The mural proceeds to highlight historical moments as well as tragedies with the recurring theme of hope. Throughout the mural, a dove is included in the scenes representing Chávez’s commitment to non-violence.

The mural is painted on two separate but adjacent walls, each approximately 6 feet high by 50 feet long. The walls are constructed of concrete blocks, sealed and finished for the mural painting. The murals face inward towards the memorial. On the other side of the memorial, “The César Chávez Memorial,” is written in bold lettering, which can easily be read by Metrolink passengers entering the City.