Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ceasar Chavez and the nobility of poverty

One of the overwhelming ideas of the 20th Century has been the struggle of people throughout the world, to achieve a middle class life. The Horatio Alger mythology of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps has informed most of the American experience, but not necessarily for Cesar Chavez.

When we think of Chavez, we think of farm workers, the fields of Delano, or the organization of the UFW. The grape boycott of the late 60’s, the secondary boycott, which would give the farm workers their greatest success and the Chicano movement of which he would become a part. In fact, Chaves’ life and his legacy was far more complex.

More than a union organizer, he saw himself as a community organizer. Perhaps a community organizer on steroids. He sought not just to lift up people, but to solve there problems. Where many wanted to move farm workers to the middle class, Chavez saw a kind of nobility in poverty which actually may have limited his success.

Miriam Pawel has written the first full throated biography about The Crusades of Cesar Chavez:

My conversation with Miriam Pawel:

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