Today, Aug. 28, marks the day that my father, my best friend, and mentor Jaime P. Martinez would have turned 71 years old. What a life he lived.

People who once organized with my father have told me countless stories about how he touched their lives over the last four decades – A testament to the remarkable life and journey he experienced. Story after story presents a colorful replay of his life, with many mentions of the relentless efforts and courage he brought forward to champion causes he believed were important for our community, our state, and our nation.

From giving back to the Westside neighborhood he grew up in, to leading the charge to rename a street for his mentor and labor leader César Chávez, to lobbying efforts at all levels of government for labor rights and immigration reform, he was a man who rose to the occasion.

Many of his accomplishments were reported in the weeks following his passing. One of those accomplishments was forming the César E. Chávez Legacy and Educational Foundation (CECLEF), a seed my father planted and nurtured.

(From left): Jaime Martinez and Ernest Martinez at the César Chávez Center in February 2014 holding a portrait of Willie Velasquez, icon and champion for voter registration. Credit: Courtesy / Martinez family

Serving as founder and chairman until the very end, his leadership and organizing efforts brought many young people, community leaders, activists, and civic and elected leaders together to engage, debate, and organize on many issues over the years. There is no question that his strong presence will be missed, especially his leadership in civil and human rights advocacy. While he can’t be replaced, his spirit and legacy will live on. He left us so much – It would be impossible to move on and forget.

It was emotionally difficult for our team, but CECLEF members recently met to elect new leadership and address next steps for the organization. At the heart of our organization, we will continue the traditions of giving back to our community through our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Barrio events and the CECLEF Scholarship Fund.

My father believed cultural and community outreach efforts were the most effective way to educate and engage community members. In order to preserve our history and bring to light the relevant issues facing our community, CECLEF will continue to host the annual César E. Chávez March for Justice.

Jaime Martinez greets the large crowd before the Official 21st Anniversary Cesar E. Chavez March For Justice.
Jaime Martinez greets the large crowd before the Official 21st Anniversary César E. Chávez March For Justice. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

It is my strong belief that the march should be a priority for all of us, as an organization and as a community. It must be shared with the entire city, and we must engage more with the next generation of leaders.

CECLEF will soon meet to begin planning and gathering community input for the 22nd Annual César E. Chávez march in 2018. There will be a new ending location as the area near the Alamo will be under construction. This provides a unique opportunity to re-design, evolve, and grow an event that has become a beautiful tradition for San Antonio, as well as an opportunity to spur creativity as we celebrate San Antonio’s Tricentennial.

As my family and extended community comes together to remember my father’s life and legacy, let’s work together, join forces when necessary, and never forget why we spend time giving back and working to make our community a better place than we found it.

(From left): Marie Martinez, César Chávez, Ernest Martinez, Jaime Martinez, and Chris Martinez during a community event with the Catholic Church during one of Chavez’s visits to San Antonio the 1980s. Credit: Courtesy / Martinez family

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” – César E. Chávez

Viva Jaime Martinez and happy birthday, Dad!

In unity,

Ernest J. Martinez

To find out more about CECLEF, click here. To contact the foundation call 210-226-373  or email fund@ceclef.org.

Ernest Martinez

Ernest J. Martinez is a local financial advisor and has served the César E. Chávez Legacy & Educational Foundation since its founding by his father Jaime P. Martinez. Prior to being elected CECLEF...