MEChA’s call for holiday is poor representation of Chavez’s goals

To the Editor:

There appears to be a trend on campus that grossly misrepresents and misinterprets history for the sake of making political commentary. The latest is found in yesterday’s article on the petition of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan to have Cesar Chavez’s birthday declared a national holiday. However, the assertions made by the MEChA group at Yale are wholly incorrect. Cesar Chavez was a leader of the labor movement, not of the Latino or Mexican-American community.

It is important to make a distinction between what Cesar Chavez achieved and what he is perceived to have achieved. Chavez’s greatest accomplishment was to earn a fair wage for the unionized laborers. He accomplished this by limiting the supply of the workforce so there would be a bigger demand for it. In order to control the supply of labor, Chavez willingly collaborated with the Immigration and Naturalization Services and would offer his own United Farm Workers staffers to serve as early versions of border minutemen to keep Mexican immigrants from crossing the border. I do believe that Chavez should be honored, but as an effective labor leader who succeeded in getting an honest wage for laborers.

MEChA’s proposal equates Chavez with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., which is both disrespectful and inaccurate. King’s struggle was rooted wholly in racial inequality, and his actions reflected this. In contrast, Cesar Chavez’s plight was of economic inequality, an issue distinct from Chavez’s Mexican heritage. If race was important to Chavez, there would have been no collaboration with the INS.

The purpose of this letter is not to take anything away from Chavez’s accomplishment. Instead, it is a plea to correct a historical inaccuracy that distorts and insults “la mexicanidad.”

Fidel Martinez ’07

March 28

The writer is in Jonathan Edwards College.