Latino members of the Wisconsin State Legislature hosted an event at the state Capitol building honoring civil rights activist César Chávez for the first time in over a decade on Friday, March 29.
“I think the proclamation that Governor Tony Evers issued today to honor César Chávez Day is a way to celebrate our Latino communities across the great state of Wisconsin,” State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee) said.
Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association alongside Dolores Huerta in 1962, which would later become the United Farm Workers. His movement also inspired the organizing of Obreros Unidos in Wisconsin in 1966. While President Barack Obama proclaimed March 31 Cesar Chávez Day in 2014 as a U.S. federal commemorative holiday, Chávez Day has not been celebrated in the State Capitol in recent years.
Gov. Evers joined the main speakers of the event in solidarity with the Latino members of the Wisconsin State Legislature and Wisconsinites of Latin descent. Evers presented the framed proclamation at the end of his speech.
“As governor, I am really pleased to be a part of this celebration,” Gov. Evers said in his speech.
He paralleled the workers of his hometown Plymouth, Wisconsin to the plight of workers Chávez served throughout the nation. Evers said Chávez continues to inspire all of us, Latinos and other Wisconsinites as well as other working class Americans.
“This governor stands with Wisconsin immigrants. He stands with Latino Wisconsinites. He recognizes the contributions of this part of the electorate, of this part of the community,” Zamarripa said.
At the event, she shared her own family history and discussed the legacy farmers and laborers have left within Wisconsin. Zamarripa, who serves as one of four openly LGBT members of the Wisconsin legislature, is very proud of the fact that she comes from a family of workers.
She said the governor’s show of support means a lot today especially since Trump launched his presidential campaign on the backs of Mexicans by calling them rapist and murders. Zamarripa said this action counters the negativity that so many Latinos have felt in recent times.
“I feel very positive and I still feel that way even though I sit in the State Assembly that is still dominated by a Republican majority and we have a State Senate that continues to be dominated by a Republican majority,” she said.
Zamarripa said Gov. Evers has shown the valor that past governors, both Democrat and Republican have not shown by putting pieces of immigration policy in the budget. These items include drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants and tuition equity for Wisconsin “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children.
“That takes valor and courage. It is unprecedented to see a governor to put it in his budget and speak to it in his address proudly,” she said.
Zamarripa said the proclamation and the governor’s actions give her tremendous hope for the direction of the state of Wisconsin in supporting Latinos and all immigrant communities. She also said Wisconsinites should continue to engage in conversation and support legislatures that support immigrant communities.