Celebrating Cesar Chavez with his prayer for workers

DETAIL from 2010 Cesar Chavez Day poster in California.Are you celebrating Cesar Chavez this week? Two decades after his death—at age 66 of natural causes—his birthday now is commemorated in 10 U.S. states. Plus, President Obama just declared it a national commemoration as well. Born March 31, 1927, Chavez would have been 84 this week.

MEXICAN POET RAFAEL JESUS GONZALEZ, whose profile in ReadTheSpirit ranks among our most popular stories in 2010, emailed us the English and Spanish texts of the prayer Chavez took to heart in organizing farm workers. We will share that in a moment, but first here are some other Chavez resources we recommend.


CESAR CHAVEZMODEL CURRICULUM ON CESAR CHAVEZ: California’s statewide department of education provides this model curriculum online—which also is recommended by the White House.

WIKIPEDIA BIOGRAPHY OF CESAR CHAVEZ: The Wiki entry provides lots of details about his life and legacy. If you’re an educator, don’t miss the helpful links at the bottom of his Wiki profile.

UNITED FARM WORKERS BIOGRAPHY OF CESAR CHAVEZ: The UFW website provides a short biography that many other publications have referenced.

WHITE HOUSE DECLARATION OF CESAR CHAVEZ DAY: The decree from President Obama said in part: “Raised in the fields of Arizona and California, Cesar Chavez faced hardship and injustice from a young age. At the time, farm workers toiled in the shadows of society, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Families like Chavez’s were impoverished; exposed to hazardous working conditions and dangerous pesticides; and often denied clean drinking water, toilets, and other basic necessities. Cesar Chavez saw the need for change and made a courageous choice to work to improve the lives of his fellow farm workers. Through boycotts and fasts, he led others on a path of nonviolence conceived in careful study of the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Gandhi, and in the powerful example of Martin Luther King, Jr.  He became a community organizer and began his lifelong advocacy to protect and empower people. With quiet leadership and a powerful voice, Cesar founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Dolores Huerta, launching one of our Nation’s most inspiring social movements. Cesar Chavez’s legacy provides lessons from which all Americans can learn. One person can change the course of a nation and improve the lives of countless individuals. … THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31 of each year as Cesar Chavez Day.

PRINT OUT CESAR CHAVEZ PRAYER FOR WORKERS: The Cesar Chavez Foundation, founded by friends of Chavez after his death, provides lots of information about keeping his legacy for future generations. You’ll also find the foundation’s address at the bottom of this printable English-and-Spanish version of his prayer for workers that you can download in a PDF format by clicking here.


POET RAFAEL JESUS GONZALEZ: In California, the Mexican poet was honored in 2010 as a remarkable Californian in a special museum exhibit.In this time of great challenge for workers around the world—and in the United States as well—Gonzalez recommends that we all honor Chavez by repeating his prayer: (Get a Spanish version via the link above.)

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the spirit will be alive among us.
Let the spirit flourish and grow;
So we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.

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(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)


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