March 31st is the birthday of Cesar Chavez, which is a state holiday only in California, Texas and Colorado. He dedicated his life to creating an organization to protect and serve farm workers whose poverty he once had shared. Chavez was a second generation American, born in 1927, near his family's farm in Yuma, Ariz. He passed in 1993. Chavez was active as a labor leader and civil rights activist in the 1960s and 70s, when he cofounded what became the United Farm Workers Union. Chavez is credited with organizing the first successful farm workers union in American history. The efforts of the union brought about the passage of the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act to protect farm workers. Today, it remains the only law in the nation that protects the rights of farm workers to unionize. In 2003 he was honored with a first-class stamp, shown at right, which features a portrait of him in front of a field of grapes. (He is best known for leading boycotts of grapes and lettuce to gain awareness of the farm workers' plight.) The portrait was painted by illustrator Robert Rodriguez from a 1976 photo. I honor Cesar Chavez for his courage and vision, and also because we may share some DNA, my maternal grandmother's maiden name was Onofré Chavez.
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