Cesar Chavez | Biography, Died, Accomplishments, & Facts

Where did Cesar Chavez grow up?

Cesar Chavez grew up on a farm in Yuma, Arizona where he had two brothers and two sisters. His family ran a farm and a local grocery store. Cesar had a happy time surrounded by his family and relatives. His best friend was his younger brother Richard. His family lived in a mud house built by his grandfather.

Cesar Chavez Overview:

Occupation Civil rights leader
Award Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994)
Born March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona
Died April 23, 1993 in San Luis, Arizona
Best known for Founded the National Farm Workers Association

Biography of Cesar Chavez:

The Great Depression

When César was about 11 years old, his father lost his farm due to the difficult times of the Great Depression. My family didn’t know what to do. They packed up all their belongings and moved to California to find work.

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Migrant Worker

César’s family became migrant workers. They moved from farm to farm in California in search of work. The whole family had to work, including Cesar. He worked in a wide range of fields from viticulture to beets. The day was long and the work was very hard.

Despite hard work, the family barely had enough to eat. Cesar moved around a lot, so he didn’t go to school much. In just a few years, he attended his 35 different schools. The teachers were strict with him. Once, when he didn’t speak English, a teacher left him a sign saying “I’m a clown.” I speak Spanish”. After completing eighth grade, Cesar stopped going to school.

Poor Treatment

Working conditions in the fields for César and his family were terrible. Farmers rarely treated them as human beings. They had to work long hours without breaks, had no toilets, and had no clean water to drink. Anyone who complained was fired.

Latino Civil Rights

Cesar enlisted in the Navy at the age of 19, but retired two years later, returning home in 1948 to marry his mistress, Helen Favela. He worked in the fields for several years before getting a job with the Community Service Organization (CSO). . In CSO, Cesar campaigned for the civil rights of Latinos. In his CSO he served for 10 years, helping voters register and advocating for equality.

Starting a Union

Cesar read extensively and was influenced by many other leaders, including Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He wanted to help California’s local migrant workers and believed he could do so peacefully.

In 1962, César quit his CSO job and formed a union of immigrant farmworkers. He founded the National Farm Workers Association. At first, the number of members was small, and most of them were families.

Growing the Union

Cesar returned to field work to recruit workers for the union. Sales were tough. People didn’t believe unions worked. They have tried before. They feared losing their jobs or even being beaten for joining the company. Cesar continued his work. Slowly but surely, the union began to attract more members. César called the movement for better working conditions “La Causa” or “The Cause”.

Grape Workers March

One of Caesar’s first major actions was his strike against the winegrowers. A strike is when workers refuse to work. The strike started in Delano, California. Cesar and 67 workers decided to march to Sacramento, the state capital. It took me weeks to travel 340 miles. People joined them along the way.

The crowd grew even larger, with thousands of workers arriving in Sacramento to protest. Ultimately, the winemakers agreed to many of the workers’ terms and signed a contract with the union.

Continued Work

César and the union continued to defend the workers’ cause. Over the next few decades, unions will continue to grow and fight for the rights and working conditions of migrant farmers.


To draw attention to his own cause, Caesar fasted. This is the time when he doesn’t eat. Once he fasted for 36 days. Many celebrities also fasted with him.


César died in his sleep on April 23, 1993. More than 50,000 people attended his funeral.

Interesting Facts about Cesar Chavez

His middle name was Estrada.

Cesar was a vegetarian.

After moving to California, his family lived in a poor barrio (town) called Sal Si Puedes (meaning “run away if you can”). He and his wife Helen had eight children.

Cesar turned down a good job as President of the Peace Corps from President Kennedy to continue his union work.

His motto was ‘Si Se Puede’ which means ‘Yes it can be done’.

After his death, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.