On Monday, the White House announced that President Obama will be traveling to Keene, California on October 8 to formally announce the establishment of the César E. Chávez National Monument. Keene, California is the home of Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (also known as La Paz), the headquarters of the iconic United Farm Workers. The La Paz property was also the home of labor leader César Chávez and his family and is the location of his grave site.
The parts of La Paz to become part of the monument include a visitors’ center with César Chávez’s office, the UFW legal aid offices, the home Chávez shared with his wife, the Chávez Memorial Garden with the grave site, and some additional buildings on the property in Keene.
In a statement released with the announcement, President Obama said, “César Chávez gave a voice to poor and disenfranchised workers everywhere. La Paz was at the center of some of the most significant civil rights moments in our nation’s history, and by designating it a national monument, Chávez’ legacy will be preserved and shared to inspire generations to come.”
Helen Chávez, widow of César Chávez, responded to the announcement thanking the President, “We thank President Obama and Secretary Salazar for establishing this national monument and ensuring that La Paz, where César lived and worked his last 22 years and where he asked to be buried, will always be preserved. But the President is doing more than honoring one man. César knew there were many César Chávezes, men and women who made genuine sacrifices and accomplished great things but whose names are largely forgotten. If César were here, he would say the President isn’t acting to recognize him; he’s honoring the farm workers and all of those who sacrificed by joining the cause. It is in that spirit that we acknowledge the President’s designation and we are grateful to him.”
And current UFW President Arturo Rodriguez stated, “Even though César Chávez dedicated his life to the farm workers, his legacy, reflected at La Paz where he spent his last quarter century, transcended farm labor and even Latinos because it became a universal message of hope, empowerment and social justice.”
La Paz was the location where many of the UFW’s major political actions were planned, including strategy sessions leading to enactment of California’s historic 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act. The property located in the Tehachapi Mountains was also a place where Chávez could meditate and reflect on his work in a scenic setting. You can learn more about the property here, which also includes a conference and education center.