Ceremony marked 50 years since Cesar Chavez and farm workers marched from Delano to Sacramento

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Mass and ceremony with original marchers commemorate 50th anniversary (KFSN)

It's been 50 years since Cesar Chavez led more than seventy Latino and Filipino grape workers on a 340 mile march from Delano to Sacramento.
The pilgrimage brought widespread attention to the farm worker's cause in America and their call for better conditions in the fields.

The march started at the intersection of First Avenue and Albany Street in Delano. It inspired social and political change, the likes of which had never been seen in California or America. Original marchers say the spirit of 'la causa' lives on today. But the march almost ended before it even started. Local law enforcement stood in the way, and a then 18-year-old Frank Diaz remembers almost being arrested.

"I told the officers and the sheriff that if they arrested us, we would each have our one phone call to the various newspapers in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, and Fresno," Diaz said.

Officers eventually backed off, and from Delano, Diaz marched as far as Porterville with dozens of Latino and Filipino grape strikers, led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. They were on a pilgrimage to Sacramento, where they would air long-standing farm worker grievances with the state government.

"And we were out there by ourselves man," said an original marcher and founder of El Teatro Campesino, Luis Valdez.

He says the first few days were hard, but it got easier, and the group was much larger and stronger when they arrived at the capitol 25 days later. Valdez was 25-years-old when he embarked on the march, where he met his future wife.

"But it was pretty evident by the time we got to Sacramento, that we had become part of a movement that was much bigger than Delano, that spread from coast to coast, and it was really a sign that the (19)60's had come to rural California," Valdez said.

Today, there was a mass and ceremony to remember the movement and what it meant.

For original marchers like Roberto Bustos, 'El Capitan,' the ideas they fought for then are still clear, and just as important today. "We put Delano, we put the strike, we put the march on the map, when we walked," Bustos said.

As the captain of the march, Bustos kept up the pace. He was 23-years-old.
Chavez's son, Paul, was there-- he was eight. "At an early age, it did make that impression that the march really spoke to the hopes and aspirations of an entire people," Chavez said.

Later that year, United Farm Workers was formed. It still fights for the rights of farm laborers in America.

"Mark me, I think that in 100 years, the United Farm Workers will still be here, and the figure of Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta, and the Delano grape strike will be bigger than ever, because it's an inspiration for all times," Valdez said.

Despite a rocky start and hundreds of miles ahead of them, the march from Delano to Sacramento happened, and in a way, it hasn't stopped since.

On Saturday, March 26th, there will be a Cesar Chavez celebration and march in Visalia, starting at College of the Sequoias at 9 a.m. The march will go to Redwood High School, and then continue to Wittman Community center.

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