After I visited the Nationwide Chavez Heart earlier this summer season, the solemnity of the positioning hit me the second I parked.
It sits on 187 beautiful acres within the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains, on the finish of a winding forest street. Throughout are previous buildings — homes, barns, trailers — which are what’s left of La Paz, the kibbutz-like neighborhood Cesar Chavez established within the Seventies and the place his last resting place is.
Ready to greet me on the entrance was Andres Chavez, the middle’s govt director.
Andres can be Cesar’s grandson.
“See these steps proper right here?” he stated as we started our tour. He gestured to the trail as much as the gravesite of his grandparents, surrounded by rose bushes in entrance of a fountain with 5 spouts to recollect the folks killed whereas protesting at United Farm Staff actions. “I used to skateboard right here earlier than faculty.”
What many contemplate sacred grounds Andres additionally is aware of as his childhood residence.
The 2-story home the place Cesar and Helen lived? Andres remembered “stacked” Christmas Eve events the place Helen gave out socks to her grandchildren as presents. A playground behind a chain-link fence? Andres and his pals used to journey their mountain bikes down the slides. The soup kitchen that Andres plans to reopen to host guests? He cleaned dishes and swept flooring there as a child throughout neighborhood meals and bought paid in cheeseburgers.
We handed by the refurbished headquarters of the United Farm Staff and the Cesar Chavez Basis, the 2 organizations via which the labor chief launched his people-power revolution. We went into the customer heart, which provides a brief documentary concerning the historical past of the place, images from el movimiento, a duplicate farmworker shack, and Chavez’s workplace the best way he left it on the time of his dying in 1993, right down to brimming bookcases and a notepad with a to-do record.
Andres pressed a button to launch a brief narrated program full with spotlights on totally different elements of the workplace.
“Huh,” stated a sheepish Martha Crusius. “It wouldn’t cease taking part in, and now it received’t play in any respect.”
Crusius is the Nationwide Park Service program supervisor who helped put together the documentation to determine the César E. Chávez Nationwide Monument, devoted in 2012 by President Obama and consisting of the graves of Cesar and Helen Chavez, in addition to the customer heart.
Andres smiled. “We’ve bought work to do right here.”
He’s been in control of the Nationwide Chavez Heart since April, however had already made a reputation for himself within the Central Valley past his pedigree. He helped begin one of many few political radio exhibits in California hosted by Latinos and helped with COVID-19 vaccine rollouts all through Kern County. Proper now, he’s coordinating logistics for the ultimate stretch of the United Farm Staff’ march from Delano to Sacramento, scheduled to finish this Friday.
Family and friends see in Andres the non secular and spitting picture of Cesar, right down to the identical heat smile and eyes, empathetic countenance and wholesome head of hair.
“He’s a really strategic and sensible thinker,” stated Cal State Bakersfield President Lynnette Zelezny, who appointed Andres to her Latina/Latino Advisory Committee. She credit him with serving to his alma mater open the campus for COVID testing and vaccines, and for working with Dolores Huerta to persuade the tutorial senate to supply ethnic research. “Andres has that potential to convey folks collectively. He’s a magnet.”
“He doesn’t give thundering speeches that offer you chills. He simply talks to folks, identical to my dad,” stated Paul Chavez, who heads the Cesar Chavez Basis and is Andres’ father. “He’s aware of the message that he has. Nevertheless it’s a romantic notion that the 2 are related. Every is their very own man.”
The 28-year-old downplayed any comparisons, or any ambitions on his half to burnish his personal picture. His job proper now could be to raise his grandfather at a time the place he stated curiosity in Cesar is greater than ever.
“Lots of people checked out themselves over these previous couple of years and requested, ‘What extra can I do?’” he stated as we concluded our tour. “So that they seemed again in historical past. And so they discover the farmworker’s motion. The UFW was by no means huge. However there have been tens of millions of people that have been impressed.
“He was a cool-ass dude,” Andres concluded as we lastly settled in a bench underneath the shade of an oak tree. “However there are much less and fewer individuals who labored with him. Quite a lot of youthful folks, they don’t know what my Tata did,” utilizing a Mexican Spanish time period of affection that roughly interprets as “Grampy.”
Andres by no means bought to satisfy his grandfather, who died 9 months earlier than Andres was born. However he was at UFW rallies nearly from the second he might stroll. His father, aunts and uncles all carried on their patriarch’s work via the organizations he had arrange.
However, persevering with within the household enterprise wasn’t preordained.
He moved out of La Paz at 18 and earned a bachelor’s diploma in public administration in 2016. Then, he moved to Sacramento to work with a nonprofit that centered on instructional outreach for farmworkers, after which the California State Truthful.
“I didn’t know what I wished to do,” he admitted.
A few 12 months into his gig, Andres known as his father.
“He stated, ‘I’ve been pondering — I need to come again,’” Paul Chavez stated. “‘I need to be a part of the motion.’”
Paul employed his son as an assistant on a 10-year strategic plan for the Cesar Chavez Basis, which is concerned in every part from reasonably priced housing to curriculum coaching to public well being initiatives.
“Being within the motion, you’re uncovered to different folks, however you’re sheltered from the outer world,” Paul stated. “We knew we wanted a distinct focus, and it was apparent he was the man to try this.”
When the Nationwide Chavez Heart govt director function opened up and Andres expressed curiosity, Paul had a frank discuss together with his son concerning the promise and peril of the place.
“I advised him, ‘Pay attention, mijo, after all there’s a number of advantages of being your grandfather’s grandson,’” Paul stated. “‘However you gotta perceive you’re going to have some robust instances too. And you need to be comfy with coping with conditions that many people old-timers get defensive about.’”
Paul was referring to revelations in books and newspapers —together with this one — during the last 20 years about Cesar’s remedy of former colleagues which have soured his status in some progressive circles. And the Chavez household has lengthy fended off accusations that the community of nonprofits they work for and management exploits their patriarch’s identify whereas forsaking the plight of migrant staff.
It’s a previous that Andres was greater than prepared to debate with me.
“There have been some issues he might’ve carried out higher — we acknowledge that,” Andres calmly stated. “It’s important to be trustworthy while you assume there have been issues that might’ve been carried out higher, but additionally have a look at the longer image.”
I requested about his grandfather’s use of the time period “wetback” and long-standing opposition to unlawful immigration, stances which have made him an unlikely cudgel for anti-immigrant activists.
“Is that one thing we’re happy with? Completely not,” Andres stated. “However my Tata supported [the 1986] amnesty. By calling him anti-immigrant, you give companies an enormous go on the atrocities of what they have been doing. They don’t care about staff — my Tata did. We have to get context like that on the market.”
Sustaining and defending his grandfather’s legacy is simply a part of Andres’ tasks as head of the Nationwide Chavez Heart, which additionally helps handle the monument with the Nationwide Park Service. He’s overseeing the refurbishing of the previous La Paz buildings in time for the centennial of Chavez’s delivery in 2027, in addition to making the realm extra of a discipline journey vacation spot.
“Youngsters from town should be up right here within the wilderness — it’ll be one of many few instances they depart an city surroundings,” he stated.
He desires to get his grandfather’s presence extra into the trendy age, with gestures as huge as a e-book of his quotations and as small as a Spotify playlist (Cesar was an enormous jazz fan, with Coleman Hawkins a specific favourite).
Extra importantly, although, Andres desires the world to know that Cesar was extra than simply the fields.
“Each certainly one of my Tata’s causes are current-day points,” he stated. “His concepts have been radical for his time. Vegetarianism. LGBT equality. Environmentalism. Police brutality. He even did yoga earlier than it bought mainstream. Quite a lot of what he’s recognized for is fairly shiny now, however there’s a lot extra.”
We seemed on the parking zone, the place increasingly folks have been exhibiting up.
“There’s now a number of Subarus,” he joked, “as a substitute of simply Chevys.”