César Chávez comes to life on stage at Cerritos College

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César Chávez comes to life on stage at Cerritos College

Oceana Christopher, Staff Writer

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On April 2, students were treated to a special live performance by actor and educator Roberto Alcaraz to commemorate the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez, whose birthday, March 31, has been deemed a holiday in California, Arizona and Colorado.

Alcaraz, who has a long list of TV and stage credits that include CSI: Miami and portraying Cesar Chavez in Ed Begley’s musical, Cesar and Ruben, about the life of Cesar Chavez, took the stage with gusto and managed to take the audience along through all the different stages of Chavez’ storied life.

From the early days on his family’s farm near Yuma, Arizona, to them losing the farm in the 1930s for failing to pay their taxes, the family was then forced to become farm workers.

From 1965-70 Chavez, with the help of fellow organizers Dolores Huerta and Filipino Larry Itliong, coordinated a successful workers strike and grape boycott in order to obtain recognition of a union for farm workers to bargain collectively for higher wages and benefits.

At its height, over 13 million Americans supported the boycott.

One key aspect of the Chavez legacy that Alcaraz highlighted in his portrayal was the outsized role that Chavez’ fellow activist and educator, Huerta, actually played in the movement.

She has since been attributed with coining the phrase “Si, se puede!” the rallying cry of the farm workers movement and one that lives on to this day.

Chemistry major Joseph Quesada said, “I was already familiar with a lot of the history of César Chávez… but having this more intimate experience with this sort of history, it’s definitely a bit of an eye-opener, helping me come to terms with my history as a Chicano and inspiring me to take up a stand and acknowledge my history in who I am.”

Civil engineering major Edith Caranza said, “I have heard about César Chávez in the past and I have been really interested about his activism… [and] just really intrigued with how much he has dedicated into the community and it kind-of inspired me to do the same, in a way.”

Alcaraz, who wrote and adapted the piece for his performance said, “For me, it is intricately connected with my vocation as an actor, sometimes there’s work that you do for work and then there’s work that you do for passion, and so it’s always wonderful to be able to mix my craft of acting also with a piece that resonates with myself, and hopefully with young people today.”

With regards to the plight farm workers today Alcaraz said, “There’s still a need to be advocates for farm workers, especially because those who are undocumented, continue to be in the shadows and continue to not have the ability stand up and demand fair and safe working conditions themselves.”

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