How Cesar Chavez Inspired My Journey to Environmentalism

By Laura Torres

As we recognize Cesar Chavez Day today, I uncover myself reflecting on how Chavez’s life and teachings influenced my own life, and shaped my point of view of what it signifies to be an environmentalist.

In 1997, I transitioned from elementary to middle school. Beyond the superficial modifications, (from collecting Lisa Frank stickers and wearing a lot of pink to wearing only dark colors, crazy hoop earrings and way also a lot eyeliner, and lipstick too) my mind was also transforming.

My English teacher Mr. Duenas, fortunately, recognized that several of my classmates were experiencing similar evolutions.  He was patient and understanding with his squirrely class, and treated us with respect. He became our advocate when he created it his mission to teach us about our Mexican-American history. I was right away drawn to Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the many leaders connected with the farmworkers’ struggles. I also gained a new appreciation and understanding for what it meant to be a leader


Finding out about Cesar Chavez, I gained an understanding of what it looks like when communities like mine take a stand for their own health and wellness. The 1990’s was a difficult time for my community of Boyle Heights and I was familiar with struggle. As I learned about the violence Cesar Chavez and other farmers faced, I felt angry. Even so, I became inspired when I discovered about his organizing. Upon understanding the story of the grape strike, I felt hopeful to know that folks can make an influence and demand a life with dignity. And I felt empowered to know that I too could enhance situations in my personal community.

Aside from the grape strike and hunger strikes that he is primarily identified for, Chavez was concerned about the damage that humans lead to to the earth. In finding out about his life and the early work of the United Farm Workers, it is clear Cesar Chavez was creating a movement that was about a lot more than labor rights. He had a vision of a far better quality of life for the poor, a single in which the environment was wholesome, also.

He was frustrated by the lack of awareness of threats to the planet, stating, “It’s remarkable how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the atmosphere with pesticides, hunger, illness. When the poor share some of the energy that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn.”

I began to question the circumstances in my community. Chavez’s fight for a life with dignity made me see that my household seasoned so a lot of of the very same struggles of operating in painful situations for low spend. This stuck with me by way of my college years, where I learned about how communities of colour are the most impacted by pollution. I thought of Boyle Heights, exactly where I grew up, which is surrounded by freeways and adjacent to factories. I thought of the cement-covered LA River, and of the troubles my community faces in accessing healthy food and open green space. Chavez’s evaluation of power and his dedication to organizing made me feel the duty to organize and look at power structures in my own life. And this was the dawn of my professional profession as an organizer I want to know that I am active in reminding my community that we have energy when we organize.

Cesar Chavez after mentioned, “Once social change starts, it cannot be reversed. You can not un-educate the particular person who has discovered to study. You can’t humiliate the individual who feels pride. You can’t oppress the men and women who are not afraid any longer. We have noticed the future, and the future is ours.” This comment has stayed with me via my career, from my years as an education-focused organizer to present day.

I discovered a lot in my time functioning with parents in my prior positions as a parent advocate, community organizer, and project manager for neighborhood gardens. Numerous of the parents I worked with were immigrants from Latin America, and I distinctly recall a nostalgia for the nature of their homeland. They shared how they raised their own food and grew up playing outdoors. Numerous lamented that their youngsters would not expertise a childhood in the hills, bonding with animals or basically being capable to breathe fresh air. As I became close friends with some of them on social media, they would marvel at my pictures of hikes. They were shocked that I could access the San Gabriel and Santa Monica Mountains.  They had only known the San Gabriels as a faraway background or the Santa Monica Mountains as a location in which they worked for wealthy folks but had no idea that they were public lands. I identified myself spending time chatting with them about self-care by consuming healthful food and the value of spending time outdoors.  I saw the chance to connect our conversations on food to the legacy of Cesar Chavez.

Chavez was an environmentalist who grew organic food and incorporated hikes, meditation and prayer into his daily life. His connection to nature and his regular hikes had been the self-care, which supplied him with strength to continue to advocate for a life with dignity. His close connection to the land and tremendous respect for nature is a reminder that the word ‘environmentalist’ takes a lot of shapes. Being an environmentalist goes deeper than understanding where the closest organic co-op is, or staying up to date on the most recent eco-trends. It is about having respect for the environment and a willingness to care for nature in our every day lives.

In my own life, I seek time outdoors to clear my head, to relieve the stress of city life, and to rekindle my sense of adventure. I have come to think that access to organic spaces is important for enhancing one’s good quality of life. I experienced the benefits of spending time in nature in my personal life, and started to share it with close friends
and family. I officially  joined Latino Outdoors as a volunteer in 2015 as I felt need to improve the representations of Latinos, and, more especially, Latinas in the outdoors. Joining Latino Outdoors has helped me embrace my culture and connect with some wonderful individuals. Being a component of this group reminds me of Cesar Chavez outlook, “Preservation of one’s own culture does not demand contempt or disrespect for other cultures”.
Access to nature has turn into a main portion of my profession, by way of advocating for an expanded Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Location that would attain a lot more Los Angeles-area communities and foster stronger connections to nature. I have no doubt that enhanced access to nature is advantageous for LA. I am grateful to combine my passion for conservation and preservation of history in my perform.

The teachings of Cesar Chavez, by way of Mr. Duenas, had a profound impact on my life that continue to present themselves every single day. Cesar Chavez is an instance of someone who committed himself to organizing for an enhanced high quality of life, whilst maintaining his cultural practices and connecting with the environment. I am inspired to do the very same as I operate to connect Angelinos to public lands and preserve the excellent legacy of Cesar Chavez, at Cesar Chavez National Monument, and to expand his and the farmworkers’ story via websites across California and Arizona. Like Cesar Chavez, I am an environmentalist, because I believe it’s an important portion of living a greater quality of life. On Cesar Chavez Day and every single day forward, I will work to advocate for fair representation in our National Park System and speak up for opportunities to share the stories of Cesar Chavez and the numerous individuals who helped shape our country’s shared history. Si se puede!

Latino Outdoors



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