Written By: Fred Blanco

In 1972, Arizona passed a bill banning boycotts during harvest seasons. Cesar Chavez responded with a 25-day “Fast for Love.” The fast quickly took its physical toll on Chavez and he was eventually hospitalized. Many came to him to urge him to stop endangering himself. Among these were notable names such as George McGovern, Coretta Scott King, and Joan Baez.

“No, no se puede!” (No, no it can’t be done), they kept repeating in Spanish. Chavez’s whispered reply, “Si se puede!” has inspired advocates of everything from other labor struggles and community empowerment to civil rights and immigrant rights. It is the registered trademark of the United Farm Workers (UFW). It is a simple guiding dictum: “Yes, it can be done.”

Faith in humanity, a belief in action, and a need for courage, as well as an unadulterated belief in God shaped Chavez’s personal, intellectual, and spiritual self. His life has a meaning that extends beyond his influence in labor or even ethnic history. More than a union leader of the farm workers, more than a spiritual leader of the Chicano movement, he was an American reformer.

He never varied from his philosophy of human rights, although others shaped and defined his ideological and political direction. With a close group of advisors, he breathed life into the UFW. Chavez was a person who in death, as in life, was considered to be the embodiment of many themes, many causes, and many personas. To some he was a union leader, to others an American reformer, and still to others he was an American Gandhi. To many Mexican Americans and young Chicanos, he was a spiritual leader. Cesar Chavez’s death in the 1990s revived an interest in his life, his historical importance, and his legacy.