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The Economist on Frank Bardacke and César Chávez's legacy

Leo Goretti 2 December 2011

"A Mexican-American equivalent of Martin Luther King:" it is thus that César Chávez, the leader of the United Farm Workers of America and one of the foremost figures of the US Latino community, is described in a review of Frank Bardacke's Trampling Out the Vintage: César Chávez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers in the Economist.

Bardacke's book is an "intelligent, thorough history", and his opinion on Chávez is mixed, the Economist notes:

As he sees it Chávez had two main responsibilities: to sustain support for boycotts, "which he did magnificently", and to administer the union, "which he did badly". The author notes that the union's membership continued to decline in the late 1980s even after Chávez fasted for 36 days to support its grape boycott and anti-pesticide campaign.

The reviewer concurs with Bardacke about the final demise of the UWF: today, the union is "a shadow of its former self." Nonetheless, the reviewer feels that "Chávez left a significant legacy which is insufficiently acknowledged by Mr Bardacke,". Chávez is remembered as one of the most influential figures in the history of the Latino community, to the point that his birthday is a state holiday in California. The extent to which the myth surrounding Chávez's own persona has contributed to improving the living conditions of rural labourers, however, seems to be debatable.

Visit the Economist to read the review in full.

Filed under: reviews