This afternoon, President Obama honored Latino Hero Cesar Chavez and designated his home as a national monument. Today's ceremony was in the Tehachapi Mountains in Kern County, the 187-acre site, known as Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or simply La Paz. Starting in 1971, this was a center of the United Farm Workers of America and the place where Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and many organizers lived and strategized.
President Obama first toured the site with Latina Heroine Dolores Huerta.
During the ceremony, the President said, "Today, we celebrate a Great Man! Cesar Chavez..Today is the story of people, determined, fearless, hopeful people willing to devote their lives to make this country More Just and More Free..Today we celebrate Cesar Chavez."
When the Arizona-born Chavez began working as an organizer after World War II, "no one seemed to care about the invisible farm workers who picked the nation's food," President Obama said. "Cesar cared. And in his own peaceful, eloquent way he made other people care, too. Where there had once been despair, Cesar gave workers a reason to hope."
As head of the United Farm Workers of America, Chavez staged a massive grape boycott and countless field strikes, and forced growers to sign contracts providing better pay and working conditions to the predominantly Latino farmworkers. He was credited with inspiring millions of other Latinos in their fight for more educational opportunities, better housing and more political power.
President Obama seemed to tie Chavez to his own re-election campaign, saying: "Even though we have a difficult road ahead, I know we can keep moving forward together. " President Obama's 2012 campaign motto is "Forward."
Thousands of people were in attendance, many of them wearing shirts and hats with the UFW eagle stitched into the fabric. The attendees were excited and enthusiastic. The area was marked with pretty new green Cesar E. Chavez National Monument signs. The crowd at the site was the biggest since Chavez died. A spokesperson said, "Clearly, we all underestimated the passion people have for Cesar, the farm workers union and the opportunity to see the president," he said.
Helen Chavez and son Paul Chavez were among those attending the ceremony. Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Chavez of the UFW, and current union president Arturo S. Rodriguez also were present, as were Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, California Gov. Jerry Brown and other officials.