The pounding of a drum and the whistle of a conch shell kicked off Saturday's march in honor of civil rights leader César Chávez.
Dressed in full Aztec regalia, Watsonville-based dancers from Whitehawk led marchers from City Hall to Pacheco Park. Marchers from Los Banos, Watsonville, San Jose and Santa Cruz held signs or flags and chanted "Si Se Puede," the rallying cry of United Farm Workers.
Chávez, a champion of nonviolence, got results through his 25-day fast in 1968 and a 36-day fast 20 years later. Landowners signed union contracts with farmworkers, affording them better pay as well as needed breaks, restrooms and water. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Chávez's death.
Once in Pacheco Park, Whitehawk dancers performed a ritual in each of the cardinal directions. Folklorico Yolotli dancers also performed, trotting and twirling in their colorful dresses.
Organizer Naiche Dominguez, a member of the Black Berets por La Justicia, and father Henry have played a large role in five of the seven marches held in town. Dominguez, who underwent a bone cancer-related surgery last year, said he'll pass the torch to college students next year.
"That's what it's all about, for us to start things for our youth, for our people, for our children," he said.
The undertaking will fall on the shoulders of Gildardo Castillo, president of the two-year-old Social Science Club at Merced College Los Banos Campus. The 21-year-old college sophomore plans to transfer to University of California at Berkeley next fall.
"What I want to do is make this a permanent feature of the club," Castillo said. "Even if students do leave, they can continue without us."
The son of a migrant worker, Castillo said continuing Chávez's cause is important to him. He recalled some of the stories of his father.
"He was 14 and he would go work in the fields early in the morning and he would go to school right after that," Castillo said, adding that work left little time for homework.
"He ended his education at middle school," he said.
Basic rights, such as access to water and a livable wage, should never have been an issue, Castillo said. "We do live in the greatest country," he said.
The events concluded, as they annually do, with the crowd singing Spanish folk song "De Colores."
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.