The rousing cry of ¡Si, se puede! (Yes, it can be done!) rocked the world in 1972, when labor leader and civil rights activist César Estrada Chávez and his United Farm Workers Union co-founder, Dolores Huerta, came up with the slogan to champion their revolutionary causes. Today, the César E. Chávez National Monument tells the story of Chávez’s life and pays tribute to his leadership and nonviolent protests, which brought sustained international attention to the low pay and often inhumane working conditions of U.S. farm workers.
Appropriately, the tribute site is known as La Paz, or peace. Located about 30 miles south of Bakersfield, it’s set on a historic ranch near the National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark/California Historical Landmark at Tehachapi Loop. The property contains a visitor’s center, memorial rose and cactus gardens, and a fountain-framed gravesite for Chávez (who died in 1993) and his wife Helen, plus their two loyal dogs.
Start in the exhibit hall, where Chávez’s office is preserved with piles of paperwork atop his ornately carved wood desk. The hall also boasts a rickety shack made of rusted corrugated metal and weather-warped wood as a shocking example of the deplorable housing common for farm workers during the 1960s.
The photography archive is impressive as well, detailing Chávez’s efforts that showed, indeed, ¡Si, se puede! In 1975, the Golden State passed the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, as the first law in the U.S. to recognize farm workers’ collective bargaining rights.