Died when: 66 years 23 days
Star Sign: Aries
Cesar Chavez (born César Estrada Chávez, locally [ˈsesaɾ esˈtɾaða ˈtʃaβes]; March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) was an American labor leader and Latino American civil rights activist. Along with Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, later renamed the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. Born in Yuma, Arizona, to a Mexican American family, Chavez began his working life as a manual laborer and spent two years in the United States Navy. Relocating to California, where he married, he got involved in the Community Service Organization (CSO), through which he helped laborers register to vote. In 1959, he became the CSO's national director, a position based in Los Angeles. In 1962 he left the CSO to co-found the UFW, based in Delano, California. Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist, and was strongly promoted by the American labor movement, which was eager to enroll Hispanic members. His public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers' struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. By the late 1970s, his tactics had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida. In later life, he also became an advocate for veganism. During his lifetime, Colegio Cesar Chavez was one of the few institutions named in his honor, but after his death he became a major historical icon for the Latino community, with many schools, streets, and parks being named after him. He has since become an icon for organized labor and leftist politics, symbolizing support for workers and for Hispanic empowerment based on grass roots organizing. He is also famous for popularizing the slogan "Sí, se puede" (Spanish for "Yes, one can" or, roughly, "Yes, it can be done"), which was adopted as the 2008 campaign slogan of Barack Obama. Although the UFW faltered a few years after Chavez died in 1993, his work led to numerous improvements for union laborers. Chavez posthumously became an iconic "folk saint" in the pantheon of Mexican Americans. His birthday, March 31, is a federal commemorative holiday (Cesar Chavez Day) observed by several states in the US. He received many honors and accolades, while still living and after his death, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.