The site, known as La Paz and located just north of the city of Keene, was where the late UFW leader Cesar Chavez taught activists how to organize workers and negotiate contracts. The late labor leader is also buried there.
President Obama was also scheduled to attend the dedication ceremony.
Calexico resident and former UFW organizer Daniel Santillan said he planned to get a little sleep before he and a group of about 50 locals set out on a bus around midnight Sunday for the six-hour drive. He said the festive atmosphere on the bus would prevent him from getting any sleep on the ride.
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The others on the bus consist of current farmworkers still working under union contract or former laborers receiving union benefits, Santillan said. Planning for the trip began Friday.
Santillan said he was at La Paz in May during the 50th anniversary convention of the UFW and was present during its construction and refurbishing in the early 1970s.
He said he is “real excited” about going and was hoping to get Obama’s autograph.
“I’m not as big of a supporter as I was four years ago,” Santillan said, “but I’ll still vote for him.”
His son Sergio Santillan is also going and had requested Monday off from work not long after being notified Wednesday of the dedication ceremony.
The last time Sergio Santillan was at La Paz was back in 1994, when he was just 13. His father, Daniel, had introduced Sergio to the farmworkers’ movement as a young child and Sergio had gotten to meet the late labor leader once as a 4-year-old in Calexico.
“I’ve always been an admirer of Cesar Chavez,” the 31-year-old said, adding that the chance of seeing Obama speak is an additional treat.
Obama is to dedicate 105 acres of the 187-acre site, officially known as Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace) during a campaign tour through the state Monday.
Eric Reyes, of the Institute for Socio-Economic Justice in Brawley said the national recognition is significant not just to Chavez’s legacy but to his contemporaries as well.
“It’s just as much a tribute to all those who have struggled for workers’ rights,” he said.
As of Sunday evening, Reyes said he still wasn’t sure if he was going to attend the dedication ceremony. He has been to La Paz before, and described it as a “beautiful and spiritual place.”
Upon hearing of the announcement that the UFW site was going to be nationally recognized, Reyes said felt “great pride and satisfaction that Chavez’s work continues to be recognized.”
While Reyes wouldn’t attribute the timing of the dedication to purely political reasons, he did note that the national recognition underscores the importance of the Latino vote this election cycle.
“The timing is fine with me as long as (Obama) gets it done,” Reyes said.
Staff Writer, Copy Editor Julio Morales can be reached at 760-337-3415 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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