Saturday, April 04, 2009
It's been so long since I've seen a neighborhood parade that wasn't overrun with self-aggrandizing bigwigs and corporate sponsors that it took me a while to understand what felt different about today's Cesar Chavez Day march in the San Francisco's Mission district. This was my neighborhood, strutting its stuff! Sure the local pols (David Campos and Tom Ammiano among them) carried the banner. But mostly this was Mission people, celebrating an honored hero.
The Aztec dancers were in fine form -- after all, Carnaval in San Francisco comes along in May, so practice is well under way.
If you want your kids to learn about your community's heroes, what better way than to bring them to march in a parade?
Especially if they are in Chinese immersion instruction. That's San Francisco for you.
The International Longshore Workers' Union drill team led the labor banners. Cesar was, after all, a labor leader -- and so much more. (Some of my thoughts on the strains that developed within Chavez' farmworker movement as a consequence of that "more" are here.)
Then came the true stars of the day:
I sometimes wonder how many of my neighbors know who Cesar Chavez was. I remember that when he died in 1993, many thought the famous man who was being mourned was the Mexican boxer, Julio Cesar Chavez. In California and Texas, the United Farm Workers Union Chavez' birthday, March 31, is a state holiday. In California history, Cesar Chavez was the inspirational leader of many poor Latino farm workers struggling for fair pay, dignity, and respect. Their children will soon be an absolute majority in the state.