Legislation proposes national historical park to honor Cesar Chavez
SAN JOSE, Calif. - March 31 marks Cesar Chavez Day, when we honor the civil rights leader who launched the farm worker movement. Now, legislators want to pay tribute to him in a different way; by proposing a Cesar Chavez National Historical Park. Part of it would be right in San Jose.
Tucked behind Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, this humble building was, in part, where Cesar Chavez built the farm worker movement.
And now, there's a push to preserve McDonnell Hall as part of a national historical park.
"You know McDonnell Hall played an important role in my father's life and the life of a lot of Latinos on the east side," says Paul Chavez, Cesar Chavez's son.
That's why Senator Alex Padilla has introduced legislation to create the park.
The hope is to tell the story of the community organizing that happened here, of the mentors Chavez met, and of the civil rights movement that was launched.
Chavez' son Paul hopes that story will influence future generations.
"Then I think people will sit, and they'll say if somebody like Cesar Chavez can make a difference, maybe I can make a difference," he says.
Historians in San Jose say McDonnell Hall is more than just a building, and so they're glad to see it take the national stage.
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"I think it's fantastic, and I'll tell you why... because it's not really the story of Cesar Chavez. It's really the story of thousands and thousands and thousands of farm workers," says Dr. Gregorio Mora-Torres, a former San Jose State University professor.
Paul Chavez says his father was always uncomfortable being singled out for attention.
But on this Cesar Chavez Day, Paul is glad to see that legacy honored.
"So we're grateful, but also we remember how my father would probably remind us that there's a lot of work to be done, and we should not lose focus of that," he says.
The Cesar Chavez and Farmworker Movement National Historical Park would likely be comprised of multiple locations. I would include the existing Cesar Chavez National Monument in Keene, California, Forty Acres in Delano, California and McDonnell Hall in San Jose. It would also include the Santa Rita Center in Phoenix. The Department of the Interior would be expected to come up with a management plan over the next three years.