Publication: San Antonio Express; Date: Mar 30, 2014; Section: Main; Page: A3

Empowering march attracts thousands
Annual event honors labor leader Chávez
By Leezia Dhalla STAFF WRITER

Civil rights and labor leaders in San Antonio have honored the legacy of farmworker organizer César Chávez with an annual march through downtown for 18 years. The city is already home to the largest march in the country honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and to huge parades during Fiesta. On Saturday, the César E. Chávez March for Justice made its imprint on the city with 25,000 people marching from the West Side to the Alamo, the largest crowd in the history of the event. “We’re marching for a purpose. People are coming together to empower (each other),” said longtime labor activist Jaime Martinez, founder of the César E. Chávez Legacy and Educational Foundation. Before the march, a praise and worship service was held near the corner of Guadalupe and Brazos streets. By 10 a.m., several thousand people had gathered on the West Side with festive costumes, banners, bells, whistles and flags imprinted with Chávez’s image. As grand marshal, University of Texas at San Antonio President Ricardo Romo led the 2.5-mile procession to Alamo Plaza, where the convoy was greeted by live music and a troupe of feathered dancers. Immediately after, community activists and political leaders took the stage to express support for equal pay, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and better working con- ditions for laborers. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said he was inspired to see thousands of people rallying to advocate changes to federal immigration policy. “The (immigration) bill has been sitting in Congress since last June. They are wasting their time in Washington,” he said, calling for the White House and Congress to act on deportations. “We believe in family values, and we want to see them stay together. We must not take no for an answer.” Doggett was joined onstage by Martinez, U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, and LULAC member Henry Rodriguez, who helped organize the first César Chávez march in San Antonio. The four community leaders encouraged the crowd to continue rallying for immigration reform and keep themselves educated on local issues. Bringing together people with different experiences and perspectives is “the only way to truly be educated about issues,” said San Antonio resident CarolAnn Aguero, who participates in the march every year. Aguero praised the annual event for bridging the gap between people who live, work and play in different parts of the San Antonio metropolitan area. Valentina Trinidad, a member of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, said it was important to teach young people about Chávez, especially because many young people are unfamiliar with the contributions he made to the United States. “Some of our heroes aren’t in our history books,” she said. “I’m Mexican-American, but I’m American first and César Chávez is definitely an American hero.”

Photos by Robin Jerstad / For the San Antonio Express-News People cross the Guadalupe Street bridge during the César E. Chávez March for Justice. The 2.5-mile walk ended at Alamo Plaza.

March organizer Jaime Martinez walks with Christine Chávez, César Chávez’s granddaughter. “We’re marching for a purpose. People are coming together to empower (each other),” Martinez said.

Robin Jerstad / For the San Antonio Express-News Rey Rios and his mother, Patricia Rios, were among the estimated 25,000 people participating in the César E. Chávez March for Justice.