Free community event Coachella Chavez Day will honor the labor and civil rights leader

The city of Coachella later this month will hold Coachella Chavez Day, an event to honor civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez. It is the first time the city will put on the celebration, which invites the Coachella Valley community to enjoy free live entertainment and hear from a special speaker.

Coachella Chavez Day is scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. behind the Coachella Library on Wednesday, March 29, two days ahead of Cesar Chavez Day, an official state holiday since 2014. The event will feature keynote speaker Andres Chavez, grandson of Cesar Chavez, and the executive director of the National Chavez Center, which works to preserve his grandfather’s legacy. Andres will speak at 6:20 p.m.

To kick things off, Coachella Mariachi and Ballet Folklorico Sangre Obrera will perform. Free food will be available throughout, and dancing by Ballet Alma Folklorica Metztli is set to end the evening.

Attendees can also expect to hear from members of the city council. On Wednesday, Councilmember Frank Figueroa told The Desert Sun why the celebration is significant to him as someone who grew up in Coachella and was raised in an agricultural family — similar to the upbringing of several of Coachella's other council members.

"My grandfather went all the way to Washington (state) and was an apple picker, but he always came back down to Coachella. Once they stopped doing the up and down trek, (my family) decided to call Coachella home," Figueroa said. "Coachella is home to a lot of farmworkers and it's part of Cesar Chavez's legacy and his own home history."

In the '60s, Chavez worked out of the Casa del Trabajador, the United Farm Worker organization's offices at the corner of Fourth Street and Vine Avenue in downtown. Chavez and the United Farm Workers helped secure collective bargaining and other rights for workers, as well as protection from pesticides.

A mural by the Date Farmers is painted on the north-facing wall of the Casa del Trabajador, which was once Cesar Chavez's working space in Coachella, Calif.
A mural by the Date Farmers is painted on the north-facing wall of the Casa del Trabajador, which was once Cesar Chavez's working space in Coachella, Calif.

The city has Chavez listed among its hometown heroes. In 1990, the local Cesar Chavez Elementary School was the first public school in California to be named in his honor. The city later approved a memorial monument to commemorate Chavez, which now sits at the corner of Avenida Del Oro and Avenue 50 at Del Oro Park. In 2018, Coachella also named one of its major streets after him.

Coachella resident and activist Clementina Olloque, who worked alongside Chavez in her teens and led efforts to have a street in the city with his name, is also expected to speak at Coachella Chavez Day.

During a city council meeting Wednesday night, Olloque gave a presentation to council about why she believes the city also should establish a statue in his memory. "His spirit is here," she said.

Those interested in more information about the event can visit www.coachellachavezday.com.

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Eliana Perez covers the eastern Coachella Valley. Reach her at eliana.perez@thedesertsun.com or on Twitter @ElianaPress.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: City of Coachella to host free community event honoring Cesar Chavez