Hundreds of local leaders, civil rights supporters and families gathered at the Avenida Guadalupe Association Saturday morning for the 20th annual César E. Chávez March.
Led by the César E. Chávez Legacy & Educational Foundation, the annual march honors Chávez for his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and his work to improve living and working conditions for migrant farm workers.
Organizations including LULAC, the American Native Movement and various student rights organizations chanted “¡Si se puede!” as they began the long march from Guadalupe Street on the Westside to the Alamo.
“The struggle continues, and we’re still fighting for social justice for all laborers and individuals who are disenfranchised,” said City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), who served as this year’s grand marshal of the parade. “There are all ages of people and all different organizations here supporting the César Chávez legacy and the Foundation.”
Mayor Ivy Taylor was also present with her daughter, Morgan, for the march. Though local and national organizations have helped continue Chávez’s legacy of equal rights, Taylor said, there is still work to be done.
“I just hope that beyond just marching today, that everybody gets back to work tomorrow, hay que trabajar,” Taylor said to the crowd.
A number of political dignitaries including state Sen. José Menéndez, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego were present for the events. City Council members including Alan Warrick (D2), Roberto Treviño (D1), Ron Nirenberg (D8) and Rebecca Viagran (D3) arrived throughout the march to show their support.
Jerry Mendez-Arispe, a member of the Brown Beret activist group whose parents were migrant workers, has peacefully worked to improve the quality of life and opportunities for the local Hispanic and Chicano communities since 1968.
“We fought (against) civil rights violations right here,” he said, pointing to J.T. Brackenridge Elementary. “There was a time when the teachers didn’t know how to work with (Spanish-speaking) students, and they labeled them as ‘slow learners.’”
Mendez hopes that the fight for equal rights, equal pay and Chicano education – ensuring that younger generations are aware of individuals like Chávez and Dolores Huerta – are carried on by the new generation.
“We need to make this (César Chávez March) a national holiday, like Martin Luther King Day,” he said. “The Hispanic people don’t have a single person who nationally recognized for their work, and that’s something worth fighting for.”
There was a large number of young people in the crowd, including some from schools like KIPP, community organizations like Girl Scout Troop #2509, and activist groups from cities and towns throughout Texas.
This was the first year marching for individuals like Araceli Garcia, a 17 year old senior at South San High School.
“I think (the march) is awesome,” said Garcia. “I wish there were more people, like the crowds you see at the Martin Luther King March. It would be great to have more people come out and support each other and try to get involved.”
Garcia was recently accepted to the University of Southern California for the fall semester, but she looks forward to participating in similar events in the future.
It took more than two hours to move everyone from Guadalupe to the Alamo, but the marchers were greeted by large crowds standing with homemade signs, taking photos and videos along the way.
Robert Alvarado, a Brown Beret member since 1969, is confident that the crowds mean that Chávez’s legacy and work will continue. Alvarado’s eyesight is fading, he said, but as long as he can walk, he will march.
“It’s not just for me anymore, but for the generations behind me,” he said. “We’re getting there, but we still have a ways to go.”
*Top Image: Hundreds march in the 20th annual César E. Chávez March. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone