Cesar Chavez’ great-niece ‘honored’ civil rights leaders’ bust a part of Biden’s Oval Workplace

SAN JOSE – When President Joe Biden settled in the Oval Office on Wednesday, Rachel Garcia was delighted to see a bust of civil rights leader and farm workers’ union organizer Cesar Chavez prominently behind the Resolute Desk.

For many, Chavez represents the struggles of farm workers across California and across the country organizing for unions and better working conditions at a time when they were exposed to racial prejudice and systematic silence.

But for Garcia, who is Chavez’s great niece, he’s just “tio”.

Standing in the courtyard of her parents’ home – the same house on the east side of San Jose where the Chicano leader lived from 1951 to 1953 when he worked in nearby apricot plantations – Garcia said it was an honor to see that Biden chose her great. In honor of uncle in oval.

“It kind of gives you hope,” she said, flanked by an apricot tree on her left. “I think he will help people. That’s what my Tio was about. When he looks up to him, I feel very honored and hopeful. “

Chavez is among several American leaders Biden has exhibited in the Oval Office, including a bust of Martin Luther King, a massive portrait of Franklin Roosevelt, a painting by Benjamin Franklin, and others. The bust of Chavez is surrounded by photos of the President’s family.

Garcia said she would like to meet the president and ask him why he wanted to honor Chavez. Although she had no opportunity to know him very well, she was still a child at the time her great-uncle was making history. She said she remembered his positive energy and that the legacy he left his family made a lasting impression on their lives.

She said she focused on living the non-violence life that Chavez stood for. In his struggle to unite Mexican immigrants who work in the fertile valleys of California, Chavez – like other civil rights activists at the time – campaigned for peaceful demonstrations and held power to account by non-martial means.

“It wasn’t just the nonviolent cause,” Garcia said. “He was brave enough to be a voice for the voiceless.”

On his first day in office, Biden took several sweeping steps to reverse his predecessor’s landmark orders restricting immigration to the United States. On his first day, the president signed orders to end construction of the border wall with Mexico, lifted a travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries and undone plans to exclude undocumented people from the 2020 census.

Biden has also promised to work to uphold the law on delayed action on the arrival of children. This program was started in 2012 and protects hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children from deportation.

Garcia said she hoped Biden would continue to stand up for immigrants and farm laborers by keeping an eye on Chavez, just as he is keeping Chavez’s bust in his office.

Recalling the grueling conditions farm workers endured in California last year – battered by incessant heat and suffocated by devastating smoke – Garcia said farm workers and immigrants now face difficult jobs. She said she wanted Biden to focus on helping working people.

“I want him to wonder what Cesar would do. at the White House, ”Garcia said. “I would like to know why he looks up to him, why he would use him as an example, and what it means to him. For us it is a pillar of the community. It tells me a lot that he chose him in honor. “

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