Under the bright sun en el mero Westside thousands of families, civil rights supporters, and local leaders gathered at 1313 Guadalupe St. Saturday morning with banners and hopeful spirits to begin the 21st March for Justice, in honor of American labor leader and civil rights activist César E. Chávez.

Sí Se Puede! Viva César Chávez! Viva Dolores Huerta! Viva los inmigrantes!,” the crowd chanted, right before they began the march from Guadalupe Street to the Alamo. The march was co-sponsored by the City of San Antonio and led by the César E. Chávez Legacy & Educational Foundation (CECLEF).

Elected officials such as Mayor Ivy Taylor, Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8), Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26), Councilman Alan Warrick (D2), and others were in attendance. Bexar County Chairman Manuel Medina, who is running for mayor against Taylor, Nirenberg, and 11 other candidates, also participated in the march.

“We will win our causes,” CECLEF founder and lifelong activist Jaime Martinez told the Rivard Report in Spanish. “We have to do what César Chávez, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi did – to fight and march in the spirit of non-violence. We have to preserve that spirit, the legacy of education, and continue to fight for justice for immigrants.”

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

Martinez knew Chávez personally and was mentored by him, he said. Martinez is currently battling cancer, but that didn’t keep him from smiling ear-to-ear as he recounted stories of Chávez and later opened a white basket to release fluttering doves as a symbol of peace.

“I wouldn’t miss this march for the world,” he said. His sons, Ernest and Christopher, grew up with Chávez’s children and they continue to remain in contact to this day.

“This is something that represents unity – community organizations coming together for one common purpose and goal, which is to pay tribute to a great American role model and leader in César Chávez,” Ernest said. “What started out as 50 people in the first march in 1997, has now become a beautiful tradition for the city of San Antonio.”

County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) was selected as Grand Marshall for this year’s march.

“I don’t take for granted that I’m the first African American to be a Grand Marshall for a César Chávez march anywhere in the country,” Calvert, who had a Mexican grandfather, told the Rivard Report. “There were a few grumblings about that. I even had a friend who said, ‘Couldn’t they have found another Mexican-American leader?’ … and I’m reminded of Dolores Huerta when they were talking about whether to support the Filipino farm workers and some at that time said, ‘We’re not gonna do it.’ But she said, ‘Look they’ve always tried to pit the races against each other. We’re gonna support them.’ And they did.”

Calvert firmly believes that blacks and Latinos should continue to come together, just like they do at other important city-wide events like the annual Martin Luther King Jr. March.

During the march, music enveloped the crowd and spiritual dances by groups such as the Lipan Apache Tribe made incense float to the sky. Drums provided the beat for every step. Children grabbed megaphones to shout, “Sí Se Puede!,” grandparents raised red and black flags emblazoned with the UFW freedom eagle, and paleteros took advantage of the heat to set up shop along the march route and sell paletas to the tired and thirsty.

Several members in the crowd had signs expressing anti-Trump sentiments, others shouted phrases such as, “Trump, escucha, estamos en la lucha,” and “Down, down with deportation, up, up, with education.”

At the Alamo, Calvert told the crowd, “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!,” which means, “The people united will never be defeated.” He said dreamers are afraid under the Trump administration, others are afraid of losing health care, and immigrant families fear they will be detained by police and handed over to federal immigration authorities.

“I’m reminded of how important it is for us to be unified together in a country where we are fearing so much,” he said. “People are afraid of their voting rights being taken, that their educational opportunity will be taken, afraid that families will be separated…we look to the same faith that César Chávez did, which is that all people come together.”

Jose Lopez wears a vest in support of the Official 21st Anniversary Cesar E. Chavez March For Justice.
José López wears a vest in support of the United Farm Workers union at the Official 21st Anniversary Cesar E. Chavez March For Justice. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Doggett called Trump’s stance on immigration “un-American,” and said the community, as well as elected officials, must do all they can to stand by immigrant families and work for comprehensive immigration reform.

“It’s important that folks realize that while marches and protests are important, we can’t do the job of change that we need by that alone, so it’s really important that this inspires people to get involved in the political process,” Doggett said. “It’s really good that folks find ways to promote change and resistance to Trump beyond the march. It’s great to see so many groups out here and to know they can then go out into the community and make a difference.

“The setback the administration suffered on healthcare yesterday can have ramifications for the rest of the agenda,” he continued. “Even though they think they know it all and control it all, they get some resistance. I think we have to continue to resist this administration every day and in every way that is non-violent.”

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Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...