Worker recalls legacy of Chávez as day honoring him nears

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 14, 2013 

Expect to see many flags flying -- the American, Mexican and United Farm Workers -- later this month in Los Banos in honor of civil rights leader César Chávez.

A march in honor of the champion of farmworkers is set to begin at noon March 30 outside of City Hall, 520 J St., and proceed to Pacheco Park, on the corner of Seventh Street and Pacheco Boulevard.

Alicia Dicochea, who remembers picking grapes and figs as a child, said she and many others benefited from the work of Chávez. Many of his efforts afforded farmworkers with everyday benefits the workers didn't realize they were entitled to, she said.

"Looking back, we did need all those things he fought for," the 84-year-old said.

Dicochea said she would go to work with her family -- memories she looks fondly on -- and they worked full days without a break or restrooms and had to arrange for their own water.

Chávez's efforts led landowners to sign union contracts with farmworkers and raise the workers' wages. He was known for his nonviolent protests, including a 25-day fast in 1968 and a 36-day fast 20 years later.

Dicochea said she started in 1941 at 50 cents an hour.

"When we got a dollar, we thought, 'Wow, a whole dollar!' " she said, adding that Chávez let workers know they deserved better.

Once the March 30 walk reaches the recreation building at Pacheco Park, folklorico and danzantes Azteca, which are traditional dance styles, are planned.

"We're just going to keep it real simple like it always is," said organizer Naiche Dominguez.

At a population of about 36,000, Los Banos' march is not as eye-popping as a metropolitan town, Dominguez said, but the march has its faithful turnouts. The Los Banos March draws Chávez supporters from the area and many from Watsonville.

The program will last about an hour, Dominguez said, and will also feature speakers and a tribute to his father. Henry Dominguez has been involved in the movement since 1963 and served as Chávez' security for a time.

Chávez founded the National Farm Workers Association, what the UFW was originally called, in 1965. Chávez died in 1993, but the UFW is still visible with leaders like Dolores Huerta and President Arturo S. Rodriguez.

Dicochea said Chávez stood up to injustice because "somebody had to do it," and the UFW continues to work to improve the lives of workers.

"They're not going to go away," Dicochea said.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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