From the time he retired from the union in 2000 until his passing, Jaime was passionately dedicated to championing grass roots organizing, especially in West San Antonio on issues such as immigration reform. He saw Republican attacks on immigrants in places such as Texas, Arizona and California as attacks on the entire Hispanic community.
Cesar Chavez spent much time with Jaime when he came to San Antonio beginning in the ‘70s. Jaime would take his sons with him to the Rio Grande Valley to be with Cesar and to help the UFW organize farm workers.
When Jaime returned from Cesar’s funeral services in California in 1993, he told his family, “We have to do something for Cesar here in San Antonio.” With support from Paul Chavez and Arturo Rodriguez, in 1996 Jaime founded and for 21 years led the annual Cesar Chavez March for Justice in downtown San Antonio. Despite initial resistance from some officials, Jaime saw the march as a way to help educate the community about Cesar’s life and values, often visiting schools and community groups. The first march drew a few hundred participants. Recent years have seen it average 10,000 to 15,000 marchers—and as many as 25,000 people one year. The yearly event is now co-sponsored by the city of San Antonio.
Jaime founded the non-profit Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Foundation in 2004. It sponsors three signature events: the annual march on the last Saturday in March; Thanksgiving in the Barrio, providing turkeys and all the trimmings to poor families on the Westside; and Christmas in the Barrio, supplying children with toys. In-between, Jaime relentlessly organized and lobbied around immigration.
Leading an intensive effort, Jaime mounted a successful drive in 1998 that renamed the entire length of Durango Street, a main artery crisscrossing the city, including downtown, Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. It took 13 years of difficult organizing—including petition gathering, fundraising and lobbying the mayor and City Council—to finally get the name changed in 2011.
The renaming was seen as recognition by the city not only of Cesar Chavez but also of the important historic and contemporary contributions of Hispanics to San Antonio. Hispanics across the city took genuine pride in the renaming of the street.
Jaime Martinez passed away on July 16. Surviving Jaime are his wife, Marie Guadalupe Martinez; his children Ernest (and Ernest’s wife Joyce), Christopher and Sarah; and his grandchildren Erika, Kayla, Amanda and Sophia.
A memorial service for the community is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19 at Porter Loring Mortuary, 2102 North Loop 1604, San Antonio, TX 78232. Jaime will be honored by a procession through the Westside neighborhood where he was raised, including on a street renamed by the city Jamie P. Martinez Place, at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 20. People will gather at 1523 South Cibolo Street, San Antonio, TX 78207. Funeral services on Thursday are private.
Article posted on July 19, 2017 by Jocelyn Sherman on the Union Farm Workers website.