Community News

Austin honors César Chávez life, legacy

Austin honored the civil rights and labor leader at the annual ¡Sí Se Puede! César Chávez March and Celebration at Parque Zaragoza in East Austin.

Community leaders, families, students, nonprofit organizations and more gathered to honor César Chávez at Parque Zaragoza in East Austin. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida
Community leaders, families, students, nonprofit organizations and more gathered to honor César Chávez at Parque Zaragoza in East Austin. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida

“¡Sí se puede, sí se puede!” chants boomed along with the beat of drums Saturday morning during the annual “¡Sí Se Puede! César Chávez March and Celebration.” The event, organized by United By Our Roots, a coalition of Latino leaders and organizations, honors the life and legacy of the civil rights and labor movement leader.

About 750 people gathered at Parque Zaragoza in East Austin, according to organizers, for the march and rally that highlighted community speakers, elected officials and student performances. Austin, Del Valle and Manor school districts featured groups such as folklórico dance troupes, marching bands, and drill teams.

Austin community members marched around East Austin's Parque Zaragoza in honor of César Chávez. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida
Austin community members marched around East Austin's Parque Zaragoza in honor of César Chávez. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida

“¡Qué vivan todos los que pelean por nuestros derechos!,” the crowd shouted as they entered Parque Zaragoza.

César Chávez, a role model for many Latinos, left behind lessons of fighting for what you believe in. His legacy lives on through the community. “We are united by our roots,” said coalition leader Paul Saldaña. “While we are 33% of the population of Austin as far as Latinos go, young people under the age of 19 are 70% of our population in Austin.”

This year’s celebration led to a few lessons of the impact that community members can make through voting, taking on leadership roles, and fighting for what you believe in.

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Vote, Vote, Vote

The Sí Se Puede César Chávez March & Celebration was hosted by a coalition of Latino-serving organizations including HABLA (Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin) led by Paul Saldaña. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida
The Sí Se Puede César Chávez March & Celebration was hosted by a coalition of Latino-serving organizations including HABLA (Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin) led by Paul Saldaña. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida

“When my great uncle Roy Velásquez brought the first chapter of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) to Austin, Texas, Latinos had to pay a tax to vote,” said Austin City Council Member for District 3 José Velásquez . “Now we have the district attorney’s office, the county attorney’s office, AISD. Our representation continues to grow.”

Velásquez encouraged community members to head to the polls. He also discussed the importance of community participation in both local and national elections and quoted César Chávez when he said, “We don’t need perfect political systems; we need perfect participation.”

Be a Leader

Austin's annual march honoring César Chávez included an altar in his memory. The civil rights and labor leader would have turned 96 years old this year. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida
Austin's annual march honoring César Chávez included an altar in his memory. The civil rights and labor leader would have turned 96 years old this year. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida

“César Chávez was an inspiration for us to see that we can be leaders too,” said Travis County Attorney Delia Garza. “His legacy lives on in the leaders that you see up here and the work that you do.”

Garza mentioned that it’s important for young Latinos to see leaders that look like them, to show them that anything is possible. She reiterated the importance of voting by asking the crowd to pledge that they will vote in every election.

Don’t Stop Fighting

Susana Almanza, co-founder of PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources) and performer, artist and activist Daniel Llanes opened the César Chávez march and celebration with a blessing honoring the four directions. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida
Susana Almanza, co-founder of PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources) and performer, artist and activist Daniel Llanes opened the César Chávez march and celebration with a blessing honoring the four directions. Photo by René Rentería/Special to Austin Vida

César Chávez, like many local activists who spoke at the march, set the example that it is important to fight for your rights. His nonviolent protests and strikes led to positive change, such as protections for Latino workers across the U.S.

“César Chávez is an inspiration,” said Del Valle resident Yessica Marroquin in Spanish. “I love everything that he did for us. This event is important because it’s part of our culture.”

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