Yuma native Cesar Chavez’s impact on the rights of farmworkers was felt nationwide. Now, the National Park Service is looking at honoring his efforts.
The NPS is conducting a study of sites significant to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement in an effort to protect the areas for future public use and enjoyment.
Chavez, who was born near Yuma and died in nearby San Luis, co-founded the United Farm Workers Union. He advocated for the rights of farmworkers, acting to increase wages and improve their working conditions through strikes and nationwide boycotts of agricultural products he organized.
Chavez’s advocacy helped secure the passage of the first law in the U.S. that specifically recognized farmworkers’ rights to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining, according to the NPS.
Martha Crusius, project manager with the NPS, said Chavez and the farmworker movement took place across a wide swath of California and Arizona, so there are many sites that could be identified.
“A number of different things could occur, and we don’t know until we go through this process.”
Possibilities that could come out of the study include a historic tour route or trail that could link all of the sites together, or including additional sites on the National Register of Historic Places, Crusius said.
She also noted that there could be technical assistance opportunities, such as programs where landowners could apply for assistance to help tell the story or for educational programs at different sites.
The NPS could also look at managing some sites at national historic site, or in partnership with current landowners, Crusius said. Preliminary research shows there are many possible sites, and the vast majority would stay under its current use and current ownership.
However, Crusius said the study was in its early stages, and there was still much information and input to be gathered.
“This is just a study, and we’ll make a recommendation, and at that point, our work is done, and it’s up to the U.S. Congress to make something happen or not.”
The NPS study will identify sites that were important to Chavez and the farm labor movement, evaluate a range of options for preservation and public visitation, explore ideas for using these sites to help tell important aspects of farm labor movement history, and determine whether there is an appropriate role for the NPS in preserving these sites or telling these stories.
The NPS will hold a meeting in Yuma from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 24 at the Yuma Civic Center, 1440 W. Desert Hills Drive, to gather ideas for what sites, stories and management ideas should be considered.
On the Net: www.nps.gov/pwro/chavez