Cesar Chavez Day is a time when communities nationwide honor the late civil rights and farmworker movement leader.
In 2018, families and grassroots leaders will come together to celebrate Cesar Chavez during the first weeks of April, to accommodate Easter and Holy Week. At rallies, speeches and parades they will reflect on the man’s accomplishments and the need for continued community progress. Cesar Chavez Day falls on March 31.
In South Texas, members of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) – a community organization which Chavez and Dolores Huerta, a fellow farmworker and civil rights leader, founded – will hold its annual Chavez Day march and rally on April 7.
Hundreds of people are expected. In 2018, they will focus on recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and SB 4, the Texas state law that immigrant families say will lead to deportations.
Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice spoke with one youth leader from South Texas whose parents are among LUPE’s 8,000 members, about how Chavez and his calls for respect, dignity and equity continue to inspire people, especially in 2018.
Name: Josué Aldape
Hometown: Mercedes, Texas
Q: Could you tell me about yourself and your family?
We’ve been here, in the Rio Grande Valley, for 19 years. My parents came from Mexico because my oldest sister wanted to learn the English language and culture. I have five siblings.
We ended up liking it here. We know neighbors. Neighbors know us. We have family members here. We got connected here.
Q: When did you first learn about Cesar Chavez?
I think I was 4 or 5. LUPE has a meeting the first Friday of the month.
They would talk about things to make us strong. That’s where I learned about him.
They made us answer questions after reading an article about Cesar Chavez and his work to help farmworkers. They would ask: ‘What would you do if that happened to you?’
I would reply, ‘I would do exactly what he did.’ He helped people out.
He fought for farmworkers rights. He fought for portable restrooms for farmworkers. He started the United Farm Workers and LUPE.
Q: When did you realize the power of his ideas and work?
When I was in the third grade, I became involved in more LUPE meetings. I learned more about Cesar Chavez. I would speak with my parents about him.
They would say: ‘Were you at the meeting? What did you learn?’ They gave me a pop quiz. They were surprised that I was listening.
I like him because there are many temptations in South Texas. The way he lived, we live the same way. I like how he rose up.
I like to think of myself as a leader. I put myself in his shoes. I want to become like him. I want to stand up for people who need it the most.
Q: You’ve participated in LUPE meetings. How else have you participated in community events?
My mom would take us to rallies. Most of them were about low pay for farmworkers or people getting paid little, like at restaurants. We would protest and tell people to boycott because of the low pay.
Q: Why do you feel connected to people you might not know?
I felt their pain. I put myself in their shoes. Getting paid so little for all that hard work.
Q: You’ve had some special experiences at rallies and meetings. Could you talk about them?
In April 2016, I was interviewed by three television news stations and a newspaper. We were at an event for an immigration law.
They asked how this issue would affect me and my family. I told them: “I am here today to fight for our rights and my family.”
Families need to stay together.
Q: You’ve also met U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. What was that like?
It was in March 2017.
The stage fright was terrible. I had to tell them about my experience and how it would be better with immigration reform. I was hoping I could make a change.
I kind of related to Cesar Chavez because I talked to people about immigration in the same way he talked with people about farmworkers.
We met at the main office of LUPE in San Juan.
Q: What did you say?
I told her reform would be better because parents can be united with their families when they have immigration documents. Parents have a chance to tell us about life. We love each other so much. We don’t want to get separated.
A child would have to work, pay the bills and assist a family.
Q: What did she say?
She said I was a brave soul. She thanked me for my thoughts. She even wrote us a letter from Washington, D.C.
It says: “The discussion was insightful, informative and enlightening. Your commitment to seek compassionate solutions is critical and greatly appreciated.”
Q: Cesar Chavez Day is on Saturday. What do you want people to know about him and dignity, especially in 2018?
I would like to tell them to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Not everybody knows how it feels. That’s why they don’t care.
Q: Why is caring important?
Without caring, there is nothing in life. If you don’t care about your children, who will feed them? If I don’t care about anybody, what am I doing in life?
Caring helps you be a better person.
Equal Voice is Marguerite Casey Foundation’s publication featuring stories of America’s families creating social change. With Equal Voice, we challenge how people think and talk about poverty in America. Brad Wong, news editor for Equal Voice, conducted this interview, which was edited for clarity. Equal Voice content – articles, photos and videos – can be reproduced for free, as long as proper credit and a link to our homepage are included. About the top image: Josué Aldape is seen with his brothers and sisters: Josio, Joan, Joanna, Yira and Iara. Also pictured is his father, Jose, and mother, Norma. Photo courtesy of LUPE.
2018 © Equal Voice for America’s Families
Published by Marguerite Casey Foundation