When Ariana Quiñónez spoke to the Cesar Chavez Day crowd at Loyola Marymount University, she brought a deep connection to the legacy of the labor leader and civil rights activist: She’s the granddaughter of farmworkers, the daughter of an LMU alumna, the niece of two LMU alumni and she is passionate about issues Chavez championed.
Quiñónez’s grandmother, Carmen Garcia, and her grandfather, Antonio Garcia, worked fields near Bakersfield. The two Mexican immigrants settled there because they knew that their children’s education depended on stability. Carmen’s love of education, a reverence often felt by someone whose school career has been cut short, has had an enduring effect that spanned two generations.
“My mom knew from the day she was born that she was going to college,” said Quiñónez, a sophomore English major at LMU. When it came time for Quiñónez to choose a college, she considered several schools, but the pull of LMU was strong. “The focus on academics, becoming a productive member of society and the opportunities for service” convinced her. Quiñónez is a member of Christian Life Community and the Gryphon Circle service organization.
Chavez, the son of migrant laborers, founded the United Farm Workers. Emphasizing nonviolence, he led a successful five-year boycott against California grape growers, protesting poor working conditions and the use of pesticides harmful to farmworkers. In 1994 Chavez was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Because of the itinerant nature of a farmworker’s life, Chavez’s own education was spotty – he and his brother attended 37 elementary schools. Later in life, he became a voracious reader and was committed to the education of migrant workers’ children. He established the National Farm Workers Service Center, which now houses the Cesar Chavez Education Institute. The institute fills in the gaps that many farmworkers’ children have in their education.
LMU marked Cesar Chavez Day with a memorial celebration March 23 at Sacred Heart Chapel. In addition to Quiñónez’s testimonial, there were prayers, reflections and a performance by Ballet Folklorico de LMU. Also, members of Students for Labor and Economic Justice covered the work shifts for some university staff so they could attend the service and luncheon that followed. The event was sponsored by Chicano Latino Student Services and Campus Ministry. For more information, contact Campus Ministry at 310.338.2860, or go to http://ministry.lmu.edu.
Posted March 23, 2010