Little César

Top: Rita and César Chávez making their First Communion. Above: Rita Chávez Medina today.
11th Annual César E. Chávez March for Justice
Sat 11am assembly and program
Plaza Avenida Guadalupe (1321 El Paso)
1pm March to the Alamo

Senator Robert F. Kennedy called him “one of the heroic figures of our time.” Author Rudolfo Anaya said he was “a soft breeze to cool the campesino’s sweat.”

“But before anyone knew him like that he was just César my brother, not the famous César,” says Rita Chávez Medina, 81, older sister of the late civil-rights leader and labor-union activist César Chávez. On March 31, the San Jose, California, resident will make her first-ever trip to San Antonio to serve as the Grand Marshal for the 11th Annual César E. Chavez March for Justice. The day would mark César Chávez’s 80th birthday. She spoke with the Current by phone.


I’m sure that your presence is in high demand around this time of year. What made you decide to plan a trip to San Antonio?

I’ve been invited for the last three years but haven’t been able to go. We have a march that the `Chávez` family does on the same day in San Jose, but this year it was going to be small so I made a promise to go this year.

What do you remember about your brother as a child?

He was an active little boy and very determined. We always held hands everywhere because he was my little brother. I remember the first time he went to school, he didn’t want to sit by himself. The teacher told him he had to sit with the first graders, but he wanted to sit with me. I was in the second grade. So, he ran off and I had to run after him. By the time I brought him back to the classroom, the teacher had put another desk by mine.

Could you see that there were special plans in store for your brother at a young age?

Yes, because he always had goals for us. When the family would work in the fields, he would always set goals each day — how many boxes of tomatoes we would have to pick — and we never went home until we reached that goal.

One project that the San Antonio Chávez Foundation has been focused on over the past few years is trying to rename a major street `Commerce Street` in honor of your brother. What do you think about that?

It’s nice for the younger generation, but he never wanted things like that. He would say he didn’t do everything by himself. I remember they named a school after him before he died and he didn’t like it. He said, “I don’t want all this.” Now there are schools and parks and libraries and streets and bridges named after him.

Other than workers’ rights and immigration, what issue do you think César would have dedicated his time to today?

He told me, before he died, that his next goal was education. He told me he wanted to get through to the schools. He never got to do that. 


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