Local News

Monday, Oct 01 2012 06:00 PM

Obama to visit Keene, honor Chavez

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

President Barack Obama will visit Keene next Monday to announce the establishment of a Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, the White House said Monday.

"Cesar Chavez gave a voice to poor and disenfranchised workers everywhere," the president said in a statement. "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, Chavez's legacy will be preserved and shared to inspire generations to come."

The monument, which will be designated under the Antiquities Act, will be established on property in Keene called Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), better known as La Paz.

The property is historically significant due to its links to civil rights icon Chavez and the farm worker movement.

United Farm Workers of America confirmed the visit and thanked Obama and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a news release issued late Monday.

UFW President Arturo Rodriguez Arturo Rodriguez said, "Even though Cesar Chavez 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."

Chavez's widow, Helen F. Chavez, issued a statement expressing her gratitude to the government for "ensuring that La Paz, where Cesar lived and worked his last 22 years and where he asked to be buried, will always be preserved."

The National Park Service released a draft special resource study in 2011 that found five locations in California and Arizona to be of national significance, including the Delano property known as Forty Acres, which was once headquarters for the United Farm Workers; and La Paz, near Keene, where Chavez lived and the current home of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

La Paz is 187 acres all together and includes three acres that house the memorial garden where Cesar Chavez was buried after his death in 1993, as well as his office and his house. The Cesar Chavez Foundation is donating that portion of the property to the federal government for the monument.

Monday afternoon, Salazar called Paul Chavez, Cesar Chavez's middle son and the foundation's president, to inform him that Obama would issue the designation. In a phone interview Monday, Paul Chavez said he was pleased because the monument was something the foundation had been talking to the National Park Service about for a number of years.

"That this day has actually come is really meaningful not just because they'll be honoring my father's life and work, but because in these tough times when there is a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment, there are those who would have you believe Latinos just got here and have contributed nothing to the United States," he said. "This serves to remind people that we've been here, many of us, for many generations, and we've all contributed to this great country of ours. So this monument begins to tell the true story of farm workers and Latinos in this country."

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