César Chávez’ march that changed everything is the subject of a new graphic novel

He wanted others to remember him by getting organized. And now, nearly 30 years after his death, a new graphic novel wants to inspire young readers with the story of a 340-mile protest march that elevated César Chávez to the rank of national champion for farm workers and labor rights. work and civilians everywhere.

“Who Was the Voice of the People? Cesar Chavez” by Terry Blas. Random penguin house

“I think the idea of ​​work being so much more than work was a big part of what Chávez thought,” said award-winning comic book creator Terry Blas. “Who was the voice of the people? Caesar Chavez.” “If they weren’t treated fairly, it sent the message that people doing this work shouldn’t be treated fairly in other aspects of life,” Blas said.

Part of a series of Penguin Young Readers books about historical figures, the graphic novel was released on Tuesday and follows Chávez during the 1966 protest march from Delano, Calif., to the State Capitol in Sacramento, which garnered national attention – and led to the first labor contract for the fledgling National Farm Workers Association founded by Chávez and other labor leaders. The union then merged and eventually became the United Farm Workers union.

Mar Julia.Mar Julia

The illustrations for the graphic novel are by Mar Julia, who was nominated for a prestigious Ignatz Award, which recognizes achievements in cartoons.

The Associated Press reported at that time that migrant farm workers carried sleeping bags and paper bags with clothing. They had no food or shelter and relied on the hospitality of other migrant workers along the way. Protesters marched with an embroidered silk tapestry of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint.

The 25-day march, which has been described as a pilgrimage, began March 17 and ended in the West Plaza of the State Capitol on Easter Sunday, April 10. While many migrant workers were united by faith, they also carried a wooden sign with the word “huelga” (“strike”) engraved on it.

The New York Times said in a 1993 obituary for Chávez that he “was widely acknowledged to have done more to improve the lot of the migrant agricultural worker than anyone else”.

Blas told NBC News that Chávez’s tenacity in helping others has made him an enduring hero for readers of all ages.

“What stood out to me the most was her perseverance, the idea that working hard and not giving up can bring results in your life,” he said.

In 1966, Chávez led Delano grape pickers on strike for higher wages. They demanded an hourly wage increase from $1.20 to $1.40 and an increase in incentive pay from 10 cents per box to 25 cents. For reference, the US Census reports that the median income of US families had hit a new high of $7,400 that same year.

Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the National Association of Agricultural Workers with Chávez and joined him on the 340-mile march, told the California State Capitol in 1966 that migrant workers had to compete “with the level of life to give our families their daily bread. ”

Blas, who identifies as Mexican American, says Chávez’s diverse life story can speak to many young readers.

Terry BlasTerry Blas

“Any kid whose parents are immigrants, any kid who’s an American dash can feel like they’re operating between two worlds,” Blas said. “So when I was living in Mexico and speaking Spanish, the Mexicans there didn’t see me entirely as Mexican. And even in the United States, if I speak Spanish, Americans don’t see me entirely as American.

Blas said what resonated most with him was the union leader’s widespread attitude about standing up for his community. “If someone has to do it, why can’t it be you?”

For Blas, this motivation inspires his writing.

“If I want to see something represented in a book, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t write it,” he said. “I don’t want to wait for someone else to do it if I have the power to do it myself.”

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Jessica C. Bell