March 29, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 13

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    Gutiérrez part of Chávez commemoration line up

    Julia Morse
    News Office


    Chicano activist and historian José Angel Gutiérrez will be the keynote speaker for the sixth annual César Chávez commemoration sponsored by the University and the student organization El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán. The commemoration honors the late Mexican-American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist.

    The event is being held at 7 p.m., Friday, March 30, at International House, 1414 E. 59th St., and it concludes a week of lectures and activities.

    “We believe that it is important to raise awareness about César Chávez, who was a great figure for Latinos but is not very well known outside of the farm worker community or the Latino community,” said Jasmine Hernandez, co-chair of the commemoration. “We believe that his contributions to Latino history and to American history transcend the farm worker community.”

    Hernandez said El Movimiento was honored to have Gutiérrez as the keynote speaker because of his close relationship with Chávez as well as his role as a leader in the Chicano movement. Gutiérrez is an attorney and professor in Dallas, Texas, and founded the Mexican American Youth Organization, the La Raza Unida political party and the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. Gutiérrez also wrote the autobiography of his early years in southern Texas, The Making of a Chicano Militant: Lessons from Cristal.

    Hernandez said Gutiérrez would speak not only about his relationship with Chávez, but also his longtime activism and advocacy for Mexican-Americans, and what lessons from those experiences could be useful for current students. She said she hoped this year’s Chávez commemoration would be a springboard to continue raising awareness about the experience of American-born students of Spanish and Latin-American descent.

    “We would love to see the Chávez commemoration be highlighted and looked forward to just like the University’s MLK celebration,” Hernandez said.

    Gutiérrez will give his speech the day before the anniversary of Chávez’s birthday, March 31, which is observed as a holiday in several U.S. states. Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers. He led boycotts against the California grape growers industry to protest poor working conditions and to advocate for higher wages for migrant laborers, and also argued against the use of pesticides. The late Robert Kennedy called Chávez “one of the heroic figures of our time.” Chávez died in 1993.

    Other events being held as part of the Chávez commemoration are listed below. All events are free and open to the public.

    Arte Popular: An Exposition of Emerging Latino/a Artists, 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 29, Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

    César Chávez Commemoration keynote address, 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, March 30, International House, 1414 E. 59th St.

    A Day of Service in conjunction with the Humboldt Park Participatory Democracy Project, Saturday, March 31. Space is limited to 25 students.

    For more information on these or other events please visit the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán Web site at http://mecha.uchicago.edu or contact Jasmine Hernandez at jasmineh@uchicago.edu.