Farm worker movement statement:
Hailing ‘historic breakthroughs’ for Latinos, minorities under Secretary Ken Salazar
Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez and United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez issued the following statement from their Keene, Calif. headquarters, commenting on the announcement that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is leaving President Obama’s cabinet.
It must be with both sadness and profound pride that Ken Salazar is returning home to Colorado after four momentous years as secretary of the Interior. All Americans should be rightfully proud of Secretary Salazar for forging historic breakthroughs on behalf of Latinos, other minorities and the entire nation as chief shepherd of our cultural and historic treasurers.
In February 2011, the secretary dedicated as a National Historic Landmark the farm worker movement’s “Forty Acres” complex outside Delano, the scene of some of the most historic UFW events of the 1960s and ‘70s. A few months later he convened the top leadership of the National Park Service for the historic La Paz Forum at the farm worker movement’s La Paz headquarters in Keene, Calif., home to Cesar Chavez during the last quarter century of his life. There, the secretary kicked off his American Latino Heritage Initiative, vowing that the park service’s mission of telling the story of America is incomplete so long as the stories of Latinos and other minorities are ignored, which will enrich the lives of all Americans.
President Obama would not have dedicated the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument at La Paz on October 8, 2012, before 7,000 people as the 398th unit of the National Park Service without the relentless efforts of Secretary Salazar.
Activism with Cesar Chavez and the farm workers movement among Secretary Salazar’s family dates to his late eldest brother, Leandro Salazar, and his wife Loretta, who were organizers with the United Farm Workers during the early- and mid-1970s. The Salazar family have been stalwart champions of the farm workers ever since. We in the farm worker movement are grateful for all those years of commitment and support, especially the last four years of lasting accomplishments that Ken Salazar gave to his country advancing our cause as well as preserving and protecting all of our nation’s natural resources.
* * *
Background on Secretary Salazar and the farm worker movement:
• “Forty Acres”: Secretary of the Interior Salazar joined 800 students, community members, movement veterans and current leaders to dedicate the Forty Acres complex outside Delano as a National Historic Landmark on February 21, 2011. The secretary was visibly moved as he toured the coop service station and Agbayani Village where Chavez fasted in 1968 and 1988, respectively. He vowed to move ahead with other efforts to recognize the farm worker movement.
• The La Paz Forum: Secretary Salazar used what was termed the La Paz Forum, a two-day gathering of the top leadership from the National Park Service at the National Chavez Center in June 2011, to kick off the American Latino Heritage Initiative. This is a national campaign to investigate the stories, places and people of Latino heritage that are worthy of preservation and interpretation. The park service’s mission is to tell the story of America, the secretary observed. Only three percent of the service’s resources were then devoted to telling the story of America’s minorities; none of them involved modern Latinos and Latino history. The secretary gave “marching orders” to the assembled park service leadership, including park service Director Jon Jarvis, National Park Foundation President Neil Mulholland and 20 national parks superintendents: Have substantial progress from the Latino heritage initiative he can report to President Obama by the end of the President’s first term in office. The secretary specifically cited preserving and recognizing historical sites associated with Chavez and the farm worker movement.
• The Cesar E. Chavez National Monument: Secretary Salazar was the driving force behind President Obama’s dedication before 7,000 people on October 8, 2012, of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, the park service’s 398th unit on a portion of the 187-acre farm worker movement headquarters at La Paz in Keene, Calif. where Cesar Chavez lived and worked his last 22 years. Administered by the park service in partnership with the Cesar Chavez Foundation on land donated by the Chavez foundation, the national monument is the first National Park Service unit named for a Latino.
• Cesar Chavez study: In response to authorization from Congress sponsored by Ken Salazar when he was a U.S. senator, the park service in late 2011, completed its exhaustive Cesar Chavez Special Resource Study, assessing more than 100 historical sites in California and Arizona associated with Chavez and the farm worker movement for possible inclusion in the national park system.
- end -