On March 25, UCI will honor the accomplishments of Cesar Chavez, a Mexican American farmworker and civil rights activist. Cesar Chavez Day, a national commemorative holiday celebrating his legacy as a labor leader, is on March 31, his birthday.
After losing their small farm in Arizona during the Depression, Chavez and his family moved to California and became migrant farmworkers. A Navy veteran, Chavez joined the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights movement, in 1952 to assist underserved communities and began urging Mexican Americans to vote. His approach to labor rights gained nationwide support.
In 1962, Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers union). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the UFW organized strikes and boycotts to advocate for higher wages for farmworkers and was recognized as the bargaining agent for 50,000 California migrant workers. After his death in 1993, Chavez became an icon for the Latino community, organized labor and social justice causes.
While the state of California officially began commemorating Chavez’s birthday in 2000, it wasn’t until 2014 that President Barack Obama proclaimed an annual national Cesar Chavez Day, stating, “Cesar Chavez’s legacy provides lessons from which all Americans can learn.”
UCI’s Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community is a result of these lessons learned. PRIME-LC stresses Spanish-language skills and knowledge of Latino culture, with courses taught by faculty in Chicano/Latino studies, in addition to medical training and graduate study in a related field, such as public health or business administration. Its graduates are becoming healthcare leaders in the Latino community.
UCI is closing in on becoming a Hispanic-serving institution. Latinos represent the largest growth segment of our student body, and UCI serves as a valuable launchpad for them. It is important that we take this opportunity to reflect on the contributions of Cesar Chavez and other Latinos, at UCI and beyond.
Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity & Inclusion