“Cesar Chavez founded a labor union. Launched a movement. And inspired a generation. Two Decades after his death, Chavez remains the most significant Latino figure in U.S. history.” So reads the inside flap of Miriam Pawel’s recent biography The Crusades of Cesar Chavez (Bloomsbury Press, 2014). However, while many are acquainted with the iconography of Chavez as the leader of the Farmworker Movement that took on California’s powerful grape industry during the mid-to-late 1960s, much less is known about Chavez himself and his personal and organizational background prior to the formation of the National Farm Workers Association (the precursor to the United Farm Workers or UFW) or the internal dynamics and struggles between Chavez and his top brass. With great detail and empathy, Pawel provides a complex portrait of Chavez as a visionary and tireless organizer whose humility, strategic brilliance, and improbable success was matched only by his own arrogance, tactical blunders, and embarrassing defeats.
Have a listen to my conversation with Miriam on New Books in Latino Studies