EL PASO – On a warm, windy March afternoon, the inhabitants of one of El Paso’s most rustic and historic neighborhoods gathered for a carnival held in honor of Cesar Chavez.
Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe held a carnival for the famed social justice leader on the grounds of La Fe Preparatory School on Saturday the 26th of March. Hundreds were in attendance, many of them residents of the Segundo Barrio, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States.
“We need to keep the legacy of Cesar Chavez alive,” says John Estrada, who is a member of the board of directors at La Fe. “And this is one of the ways we do it, through Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe.”
The board of directors of La Fe have supported this event for over 10 years, with the event taking place on the elementary school grounds for the past three years. The games and entertainment at this event are put together by the non-profit organization and include members of staff, volunteers and even the students of La Fe Preparatory School. The entertainment ranges from ranchero music to folklórico, making this event a celebration of all Mexican-American culture.
“One of the beautiful things about being in Segundo Barrio in South El Paso is the beautiful culture. And being able to participate…the whole community coming together to celebrate a great hero like Cesar Chavez,” says Cynthia Cano, vice principal at La Fe Preparatory school.
This is a yearly highlight in the life of Segundo Barrio, which to this day remains one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. For the average Segundo Barrio resident, who, according to the statistics at city-data.com, earns an average salary of 11,000 dollars, the carnival is a welcomed distraction. La Fe has provided for these residents the opportunity to share this culture and entertainment as part of their ongoing pursuit towards bringing health and social care to this community.
“It gives [the community] a sense of belonging, a sense that we’re still here,” said Estrada as he describes the significance of the event. “This is something that is ours. Our culture. Our heroes, our music…this is something that is very relevant to not only the people of Segundo Barrio but, people of color who believe in the struggles of the campesino.”
This year the celebration of Cesar Chavez Day as a holiday has come under some scrutiny in the state of Texas. Specifically with the introduction of Texas state House Bill 505, that seeks to eliminate Cesar Chavez day as a holiday. Many of the staff and supporters of this carnival spoke against the bill, stating that it diminished the memory of Cesar Chavez, who was an important and prominent figure in Mexican-American history.
“I think it is a disgrace,” says Joel P. Rodriguez, program manager of La Fe’s Youthbuild educational program. “A man of that stature should definitely be honored, respected…he should be in textbooks [and] students should be learning about him.”
Regardless of the State’s decision, however, it is clear that La Fe and its numerous associates intend to keep the spirit of Cesar Chavez alive thanks to this annual carnival. In the most respected part of the city the memory of Cesar Chavez will always be celebrated.