Honoring Chavez

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Renaming 39th Avenue Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard would cost Portland $86,000, reported The Oregonian last week.

Meanwhile, the state is billions of dollars in the hole. Education and other government services are being cut to compensate for the deficit. And $86,000 may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but any money spent should be highly scrutinized as to whether or not it is a necessary expense.

Considering that many people are struggling with unemployment, homelessness and lack of food due to the recession, the renaming of a street should fall into the nonessential category. There are more productive and cost-effective ways of commemoration than renaming Portland streets.

Many Portlanders are writing passionate comments and blogs stating that they don’t want the street name to change. It’s our city and the government needs to take our voices into consideration.

The whole point of renaming the street is to commemorate Cesar E. Chavez, but it doesn’t seem like the appropriate way to honor someone is to raise contention. Many Portlanders say that if they rename 39th Avenue that they’ll continue to call it by its original name.

Part of the reason for this discontent is no doubt due to the fact that Chavez wasn’t even an Oregonian. Although he changed the lives of some Oregonians for the better, the effects were indirect rather than direct, as he lived in California and Arizona for most of his life, according to the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation.

The best memorial would be to name a new street after Chavez, alleviating the controversy. As our city expands, there will be plenty of streets in need of names, and naming one after this man without the extra costs that go into renaming an existing street would be the best way to make both sides of the debate content.

Also, to properly commemorate Chavez, there should be something issued to the public so that people know who he was and what he did.

According to the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, Senator Robert F. Kennedy noted that Chavez was “one of the heroic figures of our time.”

Chavez accomplished many things during his lifetime. He was a prominent advocate for Latino civil rights, coordinating voter registration drives and campaigning against racial and economic discrimination, primarily in urban areas.

Later, he founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (who, yes, has a street named after him) Chavez believed in peaceful tactics to promote change. Leading fasts, boycotts, strikes and pilgrimages he helped improve fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits, humane living conditions and other aspects of life for American farm workers.

Since we are a city that prizes sustainability and, therefore, eating local vegetables and fruit from farmers markets and grocery stores, our Oregon farmers deserve our respect. Honoring Chavez by naming a new street after him would be a good place to start. But let’s not end there. Let’s continue his practices of improving farmers’ lives. That is more of a commemoration to his life’s accomplishments than just naming a street after him.

The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation says that his life motto was “si se puede” (it can be done). These are words of wisdom for everyone to follow.
 

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