Writing: ‘A Story To Be Told’ by Amy Manzo Mendez

This piece placed first for middle school writing submissions in the Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, which invited students to consider a change they’d like to see in their community or the world and to convince an audience, through any genre of writing or visual medium, of the importance of this change. The competition was an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing and art.

A Story To Be Told 

“Cesar Chávez, he was an inspirational man. He helped many of my people”, said the
old man as the excited children around him sat and listened with awe. “I don't know if I
remember the story that well, but I'll try to tell as much as I can. It all started a long time ago, when he became a migrant farm worker, oh but wait, you little children don't even know who Cesar Chavez is. Then I'll have to start from the very beginning.”

The children desperate to hear about the hero they've heard so much about couldn't sit still. “Queremos oír la historia, tell us the story… please?” the little boy begged.

“Alright, alright, if you want to hear the story, you'll have to be quiet. Ok?” The children agreed and finally sat still to listen.

“Todo comienzo en Arizona, where he was born. He was born March 31st, 1927. His
family had been cheated out of their homes and that's how he learned about injustices. He never really liked school, which is strange because he clearly supported education when he was older, but enough of that. When he was just a young boy, he started working in the fields of California.” The kids looking surprised, still stayed quiet to listen to the story.

The old man continued,” Although Cesar had an opportunity to get an education, he
gave up high school to become a migrant farm worker, so he could help his family. At those times farm workers were treated very unfairly. Many people were showered with pesticides, because the anglos believed that many of us carried disease and infections. Not only were the farm workers treated unfairly but their families were too. We didn't have many rights and that's
what Cesar fought for.”

“Um, no más tengo dos preguntas,” a little boy interrupted, “were you treated like that, y porque pasaba eso?”

The old man chuckled, “Ay hijo, they treated us like that because they didn't like us, and
yes, sadly I was treated like that too, but today things have changed. Now things are better.” The old man sighed in despair as he remembered the past, but he still continued the story. “Anyways Cesar did not think that the way we were getting treated was fair, so he founded the national farm worker's association, more commonly known as the United Farm workers. He and
other people, like Dolores Huerta and Richard Chávez formed it and were able to help many

The children were amazed by the man’s story. They all had so many questions, but at the same time they just wanted to hear the story.

“Que mas paso, what happened?”, the eager child asked.

“Calmanse, calmanse”, the old man chuckled. “Cesar did many things for us.” he
continued. “He started protests, so that the farm workers could have better working conditions. He had many nonviolent tactics that included the Delano grape strike, his fasts that focused national attention on farm workers problems, and the 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento in 1966.”

“He was a very hard worker. Even though all we wanted to do was help out the workers,
he went to jail.” All the children gasped.

“Wasn't he a good person though?”

“Porque, why?” The children asked.

“Niños! Cálmense. César era un señor bueno, but many people didn't like what he was doing. It was in 1970. He was doing a boycott against bud antle lettuce. The authorities told him to stop his protest, but he didn't listen and went to jail for 20 days. They must have thought that would stop them, but they were wrong.”

“Cuando salió de la cárcel, he started another protest. A lot of his colleagues thought that the way he was trying to fix things wasn’t going to help. They believed that they should use violence, but Cesar was a good man, he didn’t believe in violence. So on his next protest, he proved that to make a difference, weapons were not needed, instead he went on a fast,
meaning he did not eat for some time, and he only drank water. At first, he fasted for 25 days in 1968, then 24 days in 1972, and then for 36 days in 1988. He was willing to sacrifice himself so that others could get the justice they deserved.”

“In the end it all worked out well. Cesar Chavez was first a little boy of 10 years old when he started farm working. He saw the injustices and decided he wanted to make a difference. When he grew up, he did make a difference, with peaceful protests, speeches and more. Even when there were obstacles in his life he didn’t let that stop him. The farm workers nowadays, are treated better than they were before. Cesar opened people’s eyes and were able to show
them how harshly they treated us, they knew it was wrong and now things are better.”

“Sadly, Cesar has passed away already. He died in his sleep, such a peaceful death.
The day was April 23, 1993. After all he had done for the farm worker, it was his time to go.”

The children all had sorrow on their faces. They seemed upset that he was already
dead, but they continued to listen to what the old man had to say.

“Don’t be upset children, although Cesar Chavez is gone, he is still a hero. Las personas vienen y se van, pero solo un poco de esas personas dejan una historia notable. Cesar came, helped others get better treatment, gave people a voice, and showed people what was wrong and was able to make it right. Cesar was a true hero, and will always be a hero because of what he did.”