The 7th Annual
Cesar E. Chavez Awards Dinner
March 28, 2007
by Mark Guerrero
On Thursday night, March 28, 2007, the 7th Annual Cesar E.
Chavez Educating the Heart Awards Dinner took place at the
Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. There were about
600 people in attendance. Educating the Heart Awards
were given to California governor Arnold Schwartzenegger and
Father Gregory J. Boyle. A posthumous Lifetime Achievement
award was given to my late father, Lalo Guerrero. My
brother Dan accepted the my dad's award and gave an excellent
speech about my dad and his relationship with Cesar Chavez
and the UFW. My dad wrote and recorded songs about Cesar,
the farm workers (campesinos), and the movement in the 60s.
Examples are the following recordings: my dad's compositions
"El Corrido de Delano" and "Que Vuelvan Los
Braceros" and Tomas Gamez' composition "El Corrido
de Cesar Chavez." Cesar Chavez attended and spoke
at the 1992 tribute to my dad, "Lalo & Amigos"
at the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, California.
In his speech he acknowledged my dad's contribution to the
movement and how his songs helped give the UFW inspiration
and added strength in their struggle. A clip of Cesar's
1992 comments, was shown to the audience at the Biltmore on
this night. The clip came from the portion of the documentary
"Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano" that touches
on Cesar and the UFW. Dolores Huerta, who was in attendance
at the Biltmore, was also featured in a clip paying tribute
to my dad's music and its positive effect on the movement
in some of its darkest hours in the 60s.
Arnold Schwartzenegger was given an award because of his leadership
role in aiding farm workers and their communities. For
example, in 2004, he supported and signed a UFW-sponsored
pesticide bill aimed at protecting farm workers from harmful
pesticides. In 2005, he enacted a heat stress regulation
that instituted life-saving protections for farm workers working
under extreme heat conditions. In 2006, he reinstated
funding for the celebration of Cesar Chavez Day that would
support 80 service clubs in middle schools, ensuring a year-round
celebration of Cesar's legacy through service to communities
throughout California. In January 2007, Governor Schwartzenegger
acted swiftly in mobilizing the State to provide desperately
needed food, shelter and financial assistance to the tens
of thousands of farm workers whose lives were devastated by
the freeze and to avert a Katrina-type crisis in California's
Central Valley. In his speech, the governor said how
much he admired Cesar Chavez and his courage and dedication
to his cause. Schwartzenegger's father in-law, Sargent
Shriver, who founded the Peace Corps, Job Corps, Head Start,
and other great programs, also admired Cesar and his work.
The governor said that Shriver, who's an in-law in the Kennedy
clan, had many conversations with him about Cesar. The
late Robert Kennedy supported Cesar by sitting next to him
during part of Chavez' hunger strike in the 60s. So
I guess you can say, support for Cesar and the UFW runs in
the family. It's admirable that the governor does what's
right where the farm workers are concerned without regard
to political party lines. Father Gregory J. Boyle received
an award for his work as director of Homeboy Industries, an
employment referral center and economic development program.
Established to reach out to at-risk and gang-involved youth.
Homeboy Industries is a nationally-recognized center that
assists 1,000 people a year in re-directing their lives.
By seeking to address the root causes of gang violence, Homeboy
Industries creates opportunities so that at-risk youth can
plan their futures and not their funerals. "Nothing
stops a bullet like a job" is the guiding principal.
Father Boyle gave a wonderful speech that enlightened and
amused the audience. He's a very hip man with a great
sense of humor.
After my brother Dan's acceptance speech on behalf of our
dad, I performed a four song set with an acoustic trio.
It was the same trio I used for the gala of the Lalo Guerrero
Film & Arts Festival in Palm Desert the previous week;
Lorenzo Martinez on guitarron, Alex Armstrong on requinto,
and yours truly on vocals and nylon stringed guitar.
We performed my song "The Ballad of Lalo Guerrero"
and my dad's "El Corrido de Delano," "Los Chucos
Suaves," and "El Chicano." I sang lead
vocal on the first three songs and my brother came up and
sang lead on the closer ("El Chicano"), a song about
Chicano pride. There were big screens on either side
of the stage visually projecting our set throughout the large
room. After the show I was invited by Armando Elenes,
SJV Regional Director, to perform at a UFW event in Delano,
California in May. I told him I would be honored to
do so. It was a very inspirational day night for all
in attendance. I met the new President of the UFW, Arturo
Rodriguez, Cesar's son Paul Chavez, Cesar's brother Richard,
and other Chavez family members. I had the honor and
opportunity to meet Cesar Chavez himself on two occasions.
In the mid-eighties on his birthday at an event at the convention
center in Bakersfield, California, and in 1992 at the aforementioned
"Lalo & Amigos" show in Palm Desert. Being
in his presence on those occasions, I found that he had a
calm and spirituality about him that was palpable. Like
Ghandi before him, along with that calm and spirituality was
a courage and strength that enabled him to achieve what he
did against great odds. I believe Cesar is one of the
great men of the 20th century and am always happy to be of
service to his legacy and the cause of the UFW.