For the past 14 years, Margarita Rosas has celebrated the birthday of civil rights leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez by marching in the streets of downtown Santa Rosa.
This year’s march, held Sunday, had special significance, she said.
“It’s really important for us to come together, especially now when so many people are afraid,” Rosas said, in reference to President Donald Trump’s pledge to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
But it is that fear which kept many people from attending, march organizers said. About 250 people participated in the march to commemorate the life and work of the United Farm Workers co-founder, far short of the number organizers had anticipated.
“We were expecting around 1,000 people, but so many people are afraid of being deported they don’t want to gather publicly,” said Juan Garcia, a UFW coordinator who helped organize the march.
Marchers walked nearly two miles from Roseland to Juilliard Park waving UFW flags as they chanted “Si se puede (Yes we can)” and “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido (The people united will never be defeated),” longtime rallying cries of the farmworkers movement.
A drummer and dancers with Windsor Bloco, a nonprofit youth ensemble, set the beat for the small, yet lively demonstration.
Rosas carried a large cutout picture of Chavez draped in a red poncho with a black eagle, the emblem of the United Farm Workers, which he created with Dolores Huerta and others in 1962.
“He’s an example to us all. He worked his whole life to help the campesinos,” Rosas said in Spanish, using a word for farmworkers.
Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown spoke to the crowd that gathered at Juilliard Park after the march. She presented a resolution passed by Solano County Supervisors on March 28 recognizing the work of Chavez.
Antonio Campa, a farmworker at Gallo Vineyards in Sonoma County, joined Vianey Enriques and Guadalupe Suarez, farmworkers at St. Supery in Napa County, to receive the resolution. The men represented workers at two of the four North Coast vineyards working under UFW negotiated contracts. The other two are Balletto Vineyards in Sonoma County and CK Mondavi in Napa County.
Garcia noted that the life of Chavez was one of resistance, standing up for and giving voice to laborers who harvest the nation’s food. It is a life that offers lessons for farm workers today, he said.
“We are part of the resistance to Trump. We’re resisting deportations and scapegoating,” Garcia said.
You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nrahaim.