Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cesar Chavez

Today I have the day off for Cesar Chavez Day. I do include in many of my genealogy stories pertaining to history, cities and towns. I would be amiss having been born and raised in San Jose, California not to talk about the impact of Cesar Chavez on 1960s San Jose California.
Chevez's family lost their farm in the depression of 1930s in Arizona because they could not pay their taxes.

Encyclopedia of World Biographies explains Cesar Chevez young life as:
Chávez quit school while in the seventh grade to work full-time in the fields, but he was not really educated even to that level—he could barely read and write. In 1944 he joined the U.S. Navy and served for two years. Since he was never allowed to advance beyond low-level jobs, he continued as a farm worker in California upon completing his service. In 1948 he married Helen Fabela of Delano, California. Migrant farm workers at that time worked long hours in the fields for very little money. Sometimes their employers would not pay them at all, and there was nothing they could do—nowhere to turn. Many of the farm workers were not U.S. citizens.

Chávez was an outspoken believer in Gandhi's idea of social change through nonviolent means. In 1968, to prevent violence in the grape strike, he fasted (went without eating) for twenty-five days. The fast was broken at an outdoor mass attended by some four thousand people, including Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968). Chávez fasted on several other occasions, including twenty-four days in 1972 to protest antiunion laws in Arizona and for thirty-six days in 1988 to call attention to the continued poor treatment of vineyard workers. Chávez grew dangerously weak after this fast. Another protest involved Chávez leading a two-hundred-mile march from Delano to Sacramento, California, to call attention to the demands of the farm workers.

Read more: César Chávez Biography - family, children, parents, story, death, history, wife, school, information, born, time

It was on one of his fasts to boycott pesticides on fruit that he died unexpectedly at the age of 66.

I remember vividly the boycotts of the grapes and later lettuce that had a huge impact on the economy of San Jose, a major producer of fruits and vegetables. The boycotts effected all employment in San Jose. The largest employer at the time was Del Monte Cannery.

As I continue to share OUR FAMILY HISTORY, it will astoning to learn how much the Cannery had to do with our family history. From the Himan's in Sunnyvale, to the Cancimillas of Santa Clara.

In the 1870s and 1880s, California became a major producer of fruits and vegetables. In 1886, the Del Monte name premiered, originally used in the 1880s by an Oakland, California, foods distributor to designate a premium blend of coffee prepared for the Hotel Del Monte on the Monterey peninsula. By 1892, the Del Monte brand was introduced when the firm expanded its business and selected Del Monte as the brand name for its new line of canned peaches. In 1898, the California Fruit Canners Association formed when 18 West Coast canning companies merged. The Del Monte brand was one of several brands marketed by the new company. In 1909 the Del Monte Shield was introduced.[1]

CFCA added two more canners and a food brokerage house, incorporated itself as California Packing Corporation, or Calpak, and began marketing its products under the Del Monte brand. The new company grew to operate more than 60 canneries. In 1917 it acquired pineapple lands and a cannery in Hawaii and, in the 1920s, added canneries in Florida and the Midwest, as well as in the Philippines. After WWII more facilities were constructed or purchased overseas. These multinational operations made the name California Packing Corporation obsolete, and in 1967 the name Del Monte Corporation was adopted.

Needless to say all this production needed fruit and vegetable pickers. The story continues in next blog.

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