October 9, 2012
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar applauded President Obama’s establishment of the César E. Chávez National Monument October 8 at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (“La Paz”) in Keene, California, Chávez’s home and the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) since the early 1970s when Chávez was its president.
“César Chávez was one of the giants of the civil rights movement, leading a life rich with purpose and providing a voice for the powerless and oppressed,” Salazar said. “By designating La Paz as a national monument, President Obama is ensuring that future generations will have a place to learn about this extraordinary man and the farm labor movement that improved the lives of millions of workers.”
The National Park Service will manage the new national monument as the 398th unit of the National Park System in cooperation with the National Chávez Center. In consultation with the UFW, the César Chávez Foundation and members of César Chávez’s family, the center donated properties at La Paz — including the Chávez home, where Chávez’s widow, Helen, will continue to reside; the Memorial Garden where César Chávez is buried; and the visitors center — to the federal government. Once the land was donated to the federal government, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to create the César E. Chávez National Monument.
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, who joined Obama and Salazar at La Paz for the ceremony, said: “César Chávez was one of the most influential Latino leaders of the 20th century. The contributions he made are an important part of the American story, and we are honored to be entrusted with the responsibility to preserve this place and share its history to inspire future generations. We are grateful for the support the National Park Foundation is providing to ensure that the Chávez monument is open for visitors from day one.”
The monument will be the fourth national monument designated by President Obama using the Antiquities Act. The president previously designated Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia, a former Army post integral to the history of slavery, the Civil War and the U.S. military; Fort Ord National Monument in California, a former military base that is a world-class destination for outdoor recreation; and Chimney Rock, which is located in the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado and offers a spectacular landscape rich in history and Native American culture.
First exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the authority of the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents since 1906 to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients.
The American Latino Heritage Fund (ALHF) of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, has donated $150,000 to support the initial operations of the Chávez monument. The ALHF supports the work of the National Park Service in preserving historic places that tell a more inclusive story of American Latinos’ economic, civic and cultural contributions to the American experience.
La Paz became headquarters to the United Farm Workers of America in the early 1970s when the UFW, under the leadership of Chávez, bought the former rock quarry and tuberculosis sanatorium.
From La Paz, Chávez and other leaders of the UFW orchestrated unprecedented successes for hundreds of thousands of farmworkers, including passage of the first U.S. law that recognized farmworkers’ collective bargaining rights. The site soon became a tangible symbol of the union’s growth and the crossroads of the farmworker movement, a place where thousands of workers came to learn how to operate their union, effect social change and plan their strategies.
Ruben Andrade, a native of California, has been named acting superintendent of the new monument. Andrade, currently superintendent of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota, is the son of farm laborers and worked in the fields himself during school breaks.
“My family and I know firsthand the hard-fought accomplishments that are the legacy of César Chávez,” said Andrade. “To now have the opportunity to lead this new national park established in his honor, and to work with the National Chávez Center to tell the story of Chávez and the farmworker movement, is both humbling and exhilarating.”
Other buildings on the La Paz campus will continue to be operated by the United Farm Workers Union, the César Chávez Foundation and the National Chávez Center.
For more information, visit the César E. Chávez National Monument website.