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The 20th annual Mass honoring César E. Chávez was celebrated in Spanish Sunday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, honoring Chávez’s commitment to the struggle for justice and dignity for all workers.

Archbishop José H. Gomez presided at the noon Mass, which was celebrated at the Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles three days after the 95th anniversary of the birth of the late farmworkers leader.

Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962 with Dolores Huerta. The union merged in 1965 with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to form the United Farm Workers.

Fifteen UFW members participated in the procession down the cathedral’s center aisle before the Mass. A family of farmworkers helped bring the communion gifts during the Mass. Chavez’s son Paul F. Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, spoke after communion.

The commemoration was not held the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chavez, an advocate of nonviolence, is best remembered for spearheading a grape boycott in 1965 that went nationwide in 1968 and lasted until 1978, resulting in higher wages for farm workers and focusing national attention on their plight.

Chavez and the UFW played an instrumental role in the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, which made California the first state to give farm workers the right to seek union representation and bargain collectively within an established legal framework.

Born March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez dropped out of school after the eighth grade to help support his family by joining them in the fields as a migrant farm worker, witnessing the many adversities those workers faced daily.

Chavez died in 1993 at age 66.

“César fought for fair treatment, fair wages and better working conditions for the countless men and women and children who labor in the fields every day,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said. “César was a man who, with quiet leadership but a powerful voice, inspired a movement and changed the course of America for generations to come.”

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