Citizen Staff Writer
A commemoration of Cesar Chavez’s life is appropriate for Tucson, and so is a paid holiday for city employees.
The civil rights activist, a co-founder of the United Farm Workers, brought attention to the plight of migrant farmworkers, who faced dangerous work conditions, inhumane housing and low wages.
Chavez’s work, including nationwide lettuce and grape boycotts, drew international attention and ultimately spurred improvements for farmworkers in the United States.
He was born in Yuma County and died there, too, at age 66 in 1993.
Pima County employees have been given a holiday since 2001 to honor Chavez.
A paid holiday celebrating Chavez’s work is akin to the holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which Arizona has observed since 1992. City of Tucson workers are given a paid MLK holiday.
As Tucson Councilwoman Carol West noted, the workers’ Chavez holiday would cost nothing, as it simply would replace the birthday off they now are given.
Given the significance of Chavez’s work, and his roots in a southern Arizona region rife with agriculture, a holiday to remember him is eminently appropriate.
Likewise, we support plans for a high-profile celebration of Chavez in Tucson, with an April 2 rally and march from Pueblo High Magnet School down South Sixth Avenue to Rudy Garcia Park.
The city expense of $4,000, allotted to ensure security and cover police and parks costs, is a small price to pay for what likely will become an important local event.
Chavez learned the difficulties of migrant farm work first-hand when he was but a boy.
After the Great Depression cost his father his business and a drought cost the family its ranch, the Chavezes began harvesting produce in California, living in migrant camps and sleeping in their car.
Chavez quit school after eighth grade to work full time in California vineyards. He joined the Navy to serve in World War II.
Returning to farm work in the late 1940s, Chavez began to battle for change. He organized, led strikes, urged boycotts and fasted to obtain better wages and working conditions for migrant field workers.
In the 1980s, he led a boycott to protest use of pesticides on grapes.
Chavez’s heroic efforts, on behalf of workers and the environment, are well worthy of commemoration.
No Shaba baby
The pachyderm pregnancy proposed at Reid Park Zoo won’t happen, since studies of first-time elephant mothers ended plans to breed Tucson’s 26-year-old Asian elephant, Shaba.
The domino effect of this decision could be elephantine, as the zoo had sought an $8.4 million elephant enclosure expansion to breed Shaba for Tucsonans – especially children’s – viewing pleasure.
The proposal has been controversial, as some activists called for the elephants instead to be sent to a sanctuary and others criticized the high cost of an expansion.
Shaba and African elephant Connie now live in a half-acre enclosure, and activists have said even the expansion to eight acres would be insufficient.
City officials, including City Council members, would do well to hasten study of the matter, do so publicly and proffer some solutions.
Whether the duo will be kept in their small quarters has yet to be determined.