The first time I heard of Cesar Chavez I was 16 years old, and I saw him on T.V. as he marched into Sacramento along with thousands of followers. I became very excited, and I yelled out to my family, “Look, look, he’s Mexican. He’s a leader!” I begged my father to take us and join the rally in front of the Capitol since we only lived a half hour from there. But, my father wouldn’t hear of it. I was sad, yet inspired—I had never seen one of my people as a leader. I was so glad he was speaking up against injustices.
Three years later, as a student at San Jose State, I became involved with picketing and leafleting outside of the Safeway store asking people to boycott grapes. My friends and I felt we were part of something important and just so we were glad to do it. At some point he came up to Northern California on a speaking tour, and I was privileged to be invited to the Rodriguez’s house in Union City where he was going to meet with a small group of student supporters after his speech. He had had a long day and was tired. He sat in an easy chair in the living room and I was struck by just how tired he looked, yet he spoke to us in a kind, firm manner answering all our questions and telling us how important we were to the movement. One student urged him to use more “militant” methods. But, Cesar answered in a kind, soft voice that violence was not going to accomplish anything, that we did not have to use violence to be strong. That what he and the farmworkers wanted was respect and just wages for their work. That being united and working together is what made us strong.