Students marched to celebrate Mexican-American labor activist Cesar Chavez in the University Union Plaza yesterday as the band Los Coyotes de Cal Poly performed.
M.E.X.A, a club promoting Xicano cultural identity, sponsored the event. Students met on Dexter lawn where a priest from the Newman Catholic Center said a prayer before the student march, said professor and event organizer Dr. Gloria Velasquez.
“Social justice has always been very important for the Chicano movement,” Velasquez said. “This day is very important to honor our hero and to also discuss issues such as the Dream Act and a Cesar Chavez petition to make it a national holiday.”
After the march, students gathered in the plaza chanting phrases including “Viva Cesar Chavez” and held signs that read “Cal Poly for immigrants,” “Si se puede,” “Obama be
a man of your word, pass Dream Act now.”
Llanet Gomez, civil engineering major and vice president of M.E.X.A., addressed the crowd with a prayer for the farm worker struggle by Cesar Chavez, who she said “read every time he went on a march, strike or boycott.”
Chavez, born in Yuma, Arizona, was a farm worker famous for his leadership in promoting better labor conditions in California. He dedicated his life to Latino civil rights groups, coordinated voter registration drives and conducted campaigns against racial and economic discrimination.
The Dream Act is bipartisan legislation that would enable young students to further their education after high school despite their parent’s status as non-U.S. citizens.
Luis Magallon, president of M.E.X.A. and civil engineering senior, asked students in the University Union to sign the act.
“This event holds personal significance to myself especially since both my parents are field workers, and we need to raise awareness around campus to inform more students of people like Cesar Chavez,” Magallon said.
This year, Los Coyotes de Cal Poly performed songs to promote “cultural diversity,” and it was the first time Associated Students, Inc. had the stage available for the event. The band ended its performance with “De Colores,” meaning of “color”, to signify the importance of diversity, Velasquez said.
“Songs were an important vehicle of social protest, and music was an important component of Cesar Chavez’s farm workers struggle,” she said. “So it was very important for me to have music being played today.”
“I think it’s important that we reach out to other groups of individuals from other cultures and promote diversity among everyone,” said Hayley Maynard, lead singer of Los Coyotes.
Maynard, an agricultural business senior, writes and performs her own music primarily promoting cultural diversity.
M.E.X.A. is a political and cultural club on campus that holds a lot of events, including the Xicano youth conference; its main goals are empowering the younger generation to higher education, Magallon said.
“It’s very important to raise awareness on issues about diversity on our campus which is something that we have been concerned about. (This event) is also about creating a social consciousness, and using critical thinking in our actions,” Velasquez said.