César E. Chávez National Monument...

We meandered along the scenic route from Pismo to Tehachapi and decided to visit the new National Monument dedicated to the leader of the Farm Worker Movement- César Chávez.

Considered a place to learn and be inspired and set on 187 acres amid oaks and spectacular rock outcroppings in California's Tehachapi Mountains, the National Chávez Center at La Paz is where César lived and labored during his last quarter century. It was his spiritual harbor, removed from often bitter struggles in the fields and cities. Here he worked, strategized and planned- a very fitting place at which to tell his story.
I am the first to admit that I knew very little about Chávez. I do know that he is controversial yet has a place in history, hence our wanting to know more (we love history). We began gaining knowledge at the 7,000 square foot Visitor Center which was built around the renovated wood-frame administration building where César worked from 1971 to 1993, the original building being unsound but copied exactly.
Steve is in a farmer worker's home. Here we learned of the conditions that were the catalysts for César's dream to organize a union that would protect and serve the farm workers whose poverty and powerlessness he had shared. The coming years would bring much more adversity: Strikes and boycotts, marches and fasts, victories and defeats. But through it all, César learned and taught others how commitment and sacrifice can set you free from the constraints imposed by depending entirely on money and material things.

This is César's office, as it looked the last day he left in in April 1993. It is full of his books, letters, photographs and awards, a true glimpse into the man. In addition, a two minute audio recording plays, spoken by one of his granddaughters, sharing the life of her grandfather. It was a unique way for César's story to be told.
The tiny official two-person Catholic cemetery is adorned with a simple granite headstone adapted from the modest markers of César's grandparents and family members in and around his native Yuma, Arizona. It merely bears his name and the years of his birth and passing.
Mounted on the wall is a plain granite plaque with César's words inscribed from his 25-day fast for nonviolence in 1968:  "It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life." They manifest his conviction that all of us have a duty to be of service to others. No matter how one feels about César Chávez, his message of service to others is pretty admirable. It was a very interesting history lesson. 
Our final destination for today was Tehachapi. We will be spending two evenings in the company of my dear college friend, Leslie, her mom Barbara, and for this afternoon only, Leslie's son, Ivan, who I met when he was just a baby, 35 years ago. There will be lots of reminiscing!

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