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The Annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice

Long before the annual Cesar Chavez March for Justice event, San Antonio was an important stop for Cesar E. Chavez as he mobilized across the nation to take actions for social justice and advocated for the forgotten people, the farm worker. From the late 60’s until his death, many across the country joined Cesar Chavez in fasting, boycotting, and lobbying efforts to improve the lives and working conditions of farm workers.  To advance the UFW organizing efforts, Cesar Chavez visited San Antonio many times and engaged the San Antonio community to outreach and achieve coalition building efforts among activist groups, labor, the Catholic Church, and community leaders.

From an initial meeting in the late 60’s at Mario’s restaurant near downtown where the UTSA downtown campus is now located, it was an up and coming labor leader Jaime P. Martinez who was inspired by the La Causa movement and initiatives of the UFW.After the death Cesar Chavez in 1993,many across the country began to raise awareness on the teachings and principles of Cesar Chavez. After coming back from the funeral of Cesar Chavez, Jaime P. Martinez, CECLEF’s founder,believed that the people of San Antonio needed to do something to preserve the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez.

history

In 1997, with the support and approval from the Chavez family and UFW, Jaime P. Martinez began an effort to mobilize for the first ever Cesar Chavez March for Justice in San Antonio. The first march to pay tribute to Cesar Chavez was attended primarily by local grass roots activists with an attendance of fewer than 100. During this time period, a movement led by Martinez was an effort to rename Commerce Street to Cesar Chavez Street. Initially there were not enough votes by the city council, but the effort continued. It was a long battle that required great persistence, but eventually a major thorough fare, Durango Blvd. was renamed to Cesar E. Chavez Blvd in 2011.

Jaime P. Martinez started the tradition of having members of The Chavez Family and La Causa leaders serve as Grand Marshal. In the early years UFW Co-Founders Dolores Huerta, brother Cesar Chavez, UFW Co-Founder Richard Chavez who designed the UFW Eagle Logo, and UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, all served as Grand Marshals. In 2018, that tradition was brought back with Andres Chavez, the grandson of Cesar Chavez, and son Paul Chavez, President of The Cesar Chavez Foundation.

San Antonio’s Annual Tradition

Co-Sponsored by the City of San Antonio, The Cesar Chavez March for Justice is organized by volunteers led by The Cesar E. Chavez Legacy & Educational Foundation, a local 501(c)3 non-profit which is 100% volunteer led. Today, the organization is led by Ernest J. Martinez, the son of CECLEF’s founder, the late Jaime P. Martinez who died on July 16, 2017 after a long battle with cancer.

San Antonio has a long history of honoring its heroes. From our military heroes to the great Dr. Martin Luther King, the community of San Antonio does it right. But equally important, and at the core of The Cesar E. Chavez Legacy & Educational Foundation’s mission is honoring Cesar E. Chavez. Today, thousands march together in unity to pay tribute to the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez. The march now attracts all parts of the community to include youth organizations, university student groups, employer diversity groups, and non-profit organizations from across the community.

The San Antonio Tradition Continues

A Beautiful San Antonio Tradition …..VIVA Cesar Chavez !
Although Cesar Chavez left this earth on April 23, 1993, he left us a gift of incredible teachings and principles that will last a lifetime.  It is up to all of us in the community to continue sharing the story of Cesar Chavez. His legacy unites the masses every year in the month of March not only here in San Antonio but across the country. It is that Si Se Puede Spirit that Cesar Chavez encouraged all of us to embrace that inspires us to continue outreaching in our community and giving back. San Antonio has a long history of honoring it heroes, whether it is for our military veterans, to the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where our city hosts the largest MLK march in the country, there is no question San Antonio does it right. And equally important for our community is to also celebrate this great American story, and great humanitarian…VIVA Cesar Chavez!
View Letter from Paul Chavez
history

Jaime Martinez honored Cesar Chavez and also instilled pride among Hispanics in San Antonio

Jaime Martinez and Cesar Chavez became good friends, union allies and fellow activists starting in the 1970s. After the civil rights and farm labor icon died in 1993, Jaime made it his mission to educate people in his native San Antonio, Texas about Cesar’s life and legacy. The annual Cesar Chavez march Jaime organized and led over 21 years attracts many thousands of people. A 13-year campaign led by Jaime overcame much resistance to change the name of Durango Street to Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard in 2011. The renaming did more than honor Cesar; it also became a source of pride for many Hispanics in San Antonio. Dedicated community and labor activist Jaime Martinez, 70, passed away on Sunday, July 16.

“Cesar Chavez often distinguished between people who are of service and those who are true servants,” notes Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez and United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez in a joint letter of tribute to Jaime. “Many decent men and women commit daily acts of charity or kindness in their everyday lives,” the pair continues. “But only a relative few totally dedicate their lives on behalf of the most needy in the community. In that sense, Jaime Martinez was a true servant.”

Jaime P. Martinez was born on August 28, 1946 in San Antonio and grew up in the city’s Westside barrio. After graduating from Lanier High School in 1964, Jaime worked in a factory where he quickly became active with International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE) Local 780. He was elected chief steward at his plant in 1973. His life changed when he was hired a few years later over 300 other applicants as an IUE international representative.

history

Jaime organized workers for the IUE in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and New Jersey. He returned to San Antonio in 1977 to serve as organizing director for IUE District 11, which took him across Arkansas and Ohio as well as Texas. Paul Chavez recalls accompanying his father to San Antonio in the ‘80s to help Jaime organize workers at a local plant.

With help from Cesar Chavez among others, Jaime was elected in 1990 as secretary-treasurer of the IUE International Union, the first Hispanic to serve on its executive board since it was chartered in 1955. Jaime frequently travelled as he represented union members in the 23 states west of the Mississippi. He also lobbied in Washington, D.C.

With help from Cesar Chavez among others, Jaime was elected in 1990 as secretary-treasurer of the IUE International Union, the first Hispanic to serve on its executive board since it was chartered in 1955. Jaime frequently travelled as he represented union members in the 23 states west of the Mississippi. He also lobbied in Washington, D.C.

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.

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The Cause
The Cause

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The People
The People

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The March
The March

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Virtual Tour

The Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Foundation’s headquarters houses a variety of historical artifacts, artwork, letters, photos, and mementos that document the life and legacy of Cesar E. Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Jaime P. Martinez.

These civil, labor, and human rights activists organized people to advocate and stand up against injustices facing workers and communities with the Si Se Puede spirit. We welcome you to come and visit, schedule a class field trip, or bring your family and learn about the rich history and how and why Cesar Chavez strategically chose San Antonio as a key location to organize and mobilize people.

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