For the first time in over a decade, Latino members of the Wisconsin State Legislature hosted an event at the state Capitol building on Friday morning, March 29, honoring civil rights activist César Chávez, the legendary civil rights and labor movement activist and symbol of hope and inspirations to millions of Americans.
“To me, César Chávez just embodies leadership at so many different levels. He was this great Mexican-American leader,” State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa tells Madison365. “Myself, as the first Mexican-American to serve in the state Legislature, you can imagine that he means a lot to me. He embodies Latino empowerment and civic engagement at the highest level.
“The last time César Chávez was honored here in the state Capitol was by Gov. Doyle in the 2000s,” Zamarripa adds. “We’ve determined that it’s been a bit more than a decade since he has been honored here.”
Chávez was one of the most inspirational labor leaders of the 20th century. Along with Dolores Huerta, Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which would later become the United Farm Workers union, in 1962. In 2014, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 31 Cesar Chavez Day. It’s a U.S. federal commemorative holiday, which means that the government does not take the day off. Zamarripa, along with Representative Jimmy Anderson and Representative Marisabel Cabrera, has orchestrated a full morning of tributes to the civil rights hero.
“Not as many people realize that Rep. Jimmy Anderson is Mexican-American; his mother was a Mexican immigrant,” Zamarripa says. “So he will speaking and helping to organize this event along with Marisabel Cabrera who is a new legislator who joined us this session.
“Governor [Tony] Evers will, of course, join us as one of our main speakers. It’s so important to us that he is taking part in this event,” she adds. “Like I said, it’s been over a decade since César Chávez has been honored in the state Capitol and one of the big reasons that we are able to do it on Friday is that we have a governor who embraces the contributions of Latino Wisconsinites in this great state.”
Jesus Salas, an activist and former migrant worker will also speak at César Chávez Day at the state Capitol, along with Evelyn Mendoza, a UW-Madison student.
“Jesus Salas is a long time leader in our Latino community and worked shoulder to shoulder with César Chávez in the past, so we are so honored that he can be there,” Zamarripa says.
Rep. Zamarripa, who represents the largest Latino community in the state of Wisconsin in her south Milwaukee district, considers him to be a huge inspiration in her life.
“I’ve championed a bill in the past to create a César Chávez state holiday in Wisconsin. When I describe him to folks, I speak to his leadership in the Latino community and beyond and I liken him to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,” she says. “He was a great civil rights leader and we know he fought for workers rights, and, in particular, our farmworkers. We know our great agricultural history and heritage here in Wisconsin.”
The event was followed by a reception in the North Hearing Room of the Wisconsin State Capitol.
For more information about César Chávez Day, contact the office of Rep. Jimmy Anderson (608-266-8570), Rep. Marisabel Cabrera (608-266-1707), or Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (608-267-7669).