A group of motivated students emerged from the little theater at Los Amigos High School after the screening of “Viva La Causa” during an assembly Thursday afternoon.
In honor of Cesar Chavez Day, the LAHS Human Relations Club presented the documentary, telling the story of how one determined man became a civil rights activist and helped pave the way for better labor laws for today’s agricultural workers.
Before the film began, club members walked around campus during lunch time to survey students on what they knew about Chavez. “Not that many people knew who he was,” said club leader David Villanueva.
But that all changed after the 39-minute film, as 200 students clapped and cheered when Villanueva asked the crowd, “Are you guys inspired now?”
In the 1950’s, Chavez was a farmer in Delano, Calif. There were little to no labor laws in those days, and many workers found themselves breaking their backs, only to make $1 an hour with no benefits, from dusk to dawn in poor working conditions.
In 1952, Chavez left the farms to join a Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group, and in 1962, he and Dolores Huerta formed National Farm Workers Association, helping local farmers regain their rights.
In 1965, the Delano grape strike began when Filipino farmers wanted higher wages, with Chavez and Huerta leading the picket line. But after months of little results, Chavez and 70 others decided to spread the cause by marching more than 250 miles to Sacramento. Along the way, supporters joined in and when arriving to the state's capitol on Easter Sunday, the group of travelers had grown to more than 10,000 people.
The historical efforts not only benefited the farmers, but have also opened a gate for later generations, said Senior Human Relations Specialist Maricela Jauregui. She encouraged students to celebrate the day by embracing their human rights and opportunity to education and to continue living cause Chavez created over half a century ago.
“The workers fought for the children of today,” she said. “It's because of them that some of you are able to come to school.”