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"I'm happy to be a U.S. citizen." César Chávez Day celebrations begin with naturalization ceremony at monument

March 31 would be César Chávez's 97th birthday. In honor of his life and legacy, the national monument in Keene has a weekend full of events planned.
Cesar Chavez Day 2024 screenshot
Cesar Chavez Day 2024 SUnday
Posted at 5:35 PM, Mar 29, 2024

KEENE, Calif. (KERO) — March 31 is César Chávez Day, a federal holiday honoring his legacy. It also would have been his 97th birthday, and his legacy lives on and inspires the next generation. The National Monument in Keene has celebrations planned all weekend.

  • The naturalization ceremony on March 29 at the César E. Chávez National Monument welcomed 28 new U.S. citizens, and festivities followed to kick off the celebration of Cesar Chavez Day.
  • March 31 would be César Chávez's 97th birthday, and it is a federal holiday. In honor of his contributions to civil and labor rights, the National Monument in Keene has various activities planned, including live music and guided tours.
  • March 31, 1962, is when César Chávez began the farmworker movement. Since then, staff at the monument say his legacy continues to inspire future generations.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Plants like these cacti planted at the César E. Chávez National Monument represent more than just the resilience of nature. They illustrate Cesar Chavez’s deep roots in the farm worker’s union and the legacy that continues to live on to this day, ahead of what would have been his 97th birthday.

“This monument has a heartbeat that surpasses the period of time when most of the strikes were happening,” said Erin Gates. 

Gates is the superintendent of the César E. Chávez National Monument. She says she feels honored to be in this role and to welcome people to the site.

“And not just connect to the important cultural and historical significance of this site, but also the natural beauty that is what recharged the farm workers to go out and make the world a better place,” Gates said.

The weekend of birthday celebrations began with a naturalization ceremony.

Paul Chavez, one of Cesar’s sons, says he felt the citizenship ceremony was fitting to honor his father’s legacy.

“One of the things that my father believed is that people need to be involved in their communities," said Chavez. "There’s some obligation to get involved in the civic and cultural and political affairs in their community, and, to stand up for what they believe in. we’re gonna welcome them and urge them to be good, active citizens.”

28 people from 8 countries became the newest citizens in the memorial garden where Helen and Cesar Chavez eternally rest.

One of the newest citizens is Argenis Salazar…he tells me the day's excitement means a lot to him, especially now that he can register to vote in a presidential election year.

“I’m so happy because my two daughters are citizens already, and they really wanted me to be a citizen –to become a citizen," said Salazar. "I am so happy. You can imagine how happy I am.”

He says it was a long process, but he’s grateful that his new status came at a time when he needed stability while watching his home country in turmoil.

“I am from Venezuela. My country is at a very, very bad time right now, but I am happy. I am happy to be a United States citizen,” he said.

Live music, guided tours and dance performances followed the ceremony in honor of the impact César E. Chávez made in the world.

“It’s an honor to get to celebrate the naturalization and new citizenship, but also his birthday and their legacy,” Gates said.  

Cesar Chavez Day is on his birthday, March 31. Festivities continue throughout the weekend at the National Monument. More information can be found on the National Monument's Instagram page, or from the photos in the slideshow attached to this article.


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