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Project recap: Historypin at the Youth Heritage Summit in California

 

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The memorial garden at the National Chavez Center in Keene, California. Farmworker activist Cesar Chavez is buried here with his wife, Helen.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in a Youth Heritage Summit (YHS), an event helping to connect high-school students to historic places and learn about important stories in US history. Designed through a partnership between We Are the Next, The National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the National Chavez Center, YHS aims to help students explore careers in fields such as heritage conservation, cultural studies, and public history, as well as build a passion for national parks. Over four days, we explored the places and stories related to Cesar Chavez National Monument and the Farmworker Movement through a variety of activities in California’s Central Valley. The Monument, where we stayed, was the site of La Paz, home base for Cesar Chavez’s activism work on behalf of farmworkers across the state and where the labor leader lived with his family.

An important part of the Summit was giving students the opportunity to visit places that played such a pivotal role in the development of the United Farmworkers Movement and Cesar Chavez’s legacy, while learning about the origins of activism in the farmworker movement that is very much still alive today. While traveling to local sites such as The Forty Acres, Filipino Community Hall, and Radio Campesino, students heard from and spoke to those who actively supported Cesar in his mission to help local farmworkers attain better rights and working conditions, and used these experiences to subsequently create collaborative projects. Students were able to choose from three different lenses through which to explore these community sites and stories: geo-mapping, social media, and graphic design. I was fortunate to represent Historypin in leading the geo-mapping project, where a handful of students worked to create themed-collections on our platform speaking to both the historic and current stories of farmworker communities.

A truly valuable and meaningful experience, our time during the Summit spoke to power of using stories connected to specific places as a means of educating youth on important social justice issues, and recording these learnings for the rest of the world to experience. For Historypin, this was a powerful example of incorporating our platform into a larger intergenerational experience, and working directly with students through the process of putting community stories on the map.

Below are some photos of our time at the Summit:

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Paul Chavez, son of Cesar Chavez, leads students around the “Huelga!” exhibit at the National Chavez Center on orientation day, telling stories about his father and the values that drove his civil rights work. I personally had learned very briefly about Cesar Chavez in school and see his name attributed to local San Francisco schools, streets, and highways, but never really knew the larger story behind his momentous efforts.

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Alex B. Edillor, President of the Delano chapter of the Filipino American Historical Society, giving the Historypin group a tour of Cesar’s last fasting room at Agbayani Village. The prolific leader fasted in this room for 36 days as atonement for what he believed was a failure on his part to help the plight of local farmworkers suffering from increased pesticide use in the fields.

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Marc Grossman, longtime spokesman, speechwriter, and persona aide to Cesar Chavez, speaks to the Historypin group at the Forty Acres about the overwhelming local support for Cesar’s activism and mission.

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Lorraine Agtang, original striker at the 1965 Delano Grape Strike along with Cesar Chavez, tells our group about life at Agbayani Village, the first retirement home for Filipino farmworkers. Also one of the first managers of the village, Lorraine spoke about how Filipino farmworkers were a large presence in California’s Central Vally and the first to go on a grape strike, and how their partnership with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers movement was key to the latter’s success.

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We visited the Filipino Community Hall in Delano, the heart of farmworker activism in the town. Many people do not know that Filipino farmworkers joined together with Cesar Chavez and Mexican farmworkers to go on strike in the 1960’s, with growers were encouraging animosity amongst minority farmworkers as a key to keeping these groups from unifying.

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Roger Gadiano, farmworker advocate, standing in front of the Delano centennial mural. The mural depicts important Delano legacies as well as local leaders, including Filipino labor leaders Philip Vera Cruz (far left) and Larry Itliong (far right), and Cesar Chavez (center).

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The grandson of Cesar Chavez – also named Cesar- showing us the recording room at Radio Campesina, owned by the Cesar Chavez Foundation and broadcasting locally around the Central Valley. The station played a major role in spreading information during the time the United Farmworkers were gathering supporters in the 60’s and spreading the message of the movement, and today it continues that work along with widely-listened to locally-programming.

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Artifacts at Weedpatch workcamp in Bakersfield, our last stop of the day. Here we learned of the camp’s origins during the Dust Bowl, and the aspects of farmworker life that carry on in the area to this day. The camp still houses farmworkers and their families.

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Students exploring the historic work camp housing at Weedpatch (in the 100 degree+ heat!).

The Summit also provided that chance to hear great music, like the mariachi-inspired female group Trio Ellas, here performing after dinner at Villa La Paz.

The Summit also provided that chance to hear great music, like the mariachi-inspired female group Trio Ellas, here performing after dinner at Villa La Paz.

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Towards the end of the Summit we followed in the (literal) footsteps of Cesar Chavez when we went on a hike that the leader used to take every morning to meditate when he lived on the grounds of La Paz. Led by his grandson Fernando, we hiked up the hill above La Paz where we were met with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains.

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Historypin student group member Edwina working on her themed-collection. Students had a full day to work on putting together their projects in preparation for their panel presentations on the last day of the Summit.

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Students Ammy and Tim work on finishing up their Historypin collections on presentation day, focusing on “CommUNITY” in the UFW Movement. Paired students collaborated on a themed-collection and chose a few pins they created to present on that spoke to this overall theme.

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Tim and Ammy presenting their collection to the judge panel, which included Paul Chavez, Julianne Palanco (CA’s State Historic Preservation Officer), Alex Padilla (Secretary of State), and Ruben Andrade (Superintendent of Cesar Chavez National Monument).

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Student Kevin presenting his collaborative collection “Looking Beyond These Walls” together with student Gabe, focusing on the deeper meaning that can be found behind the walls of seemingly ordinary building facades – many of which we encountered on our Summit travels.

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Student Gabe speaking about how Cesar Chavez’s last fast held much meaning for him, especially being able to visit the very room where it happened. Speaking to his own Filipino and Mexican heritage, he spoke of how he was struck by the fact that the Agbayani Village where Cesar fasted was a haven for Filipino farm workers, who during the 60’s were not lawfully able to marry outside of their race.

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Student Taylor presenting together with Edwina, who both collaborated on a themed collection about the struggle that Cesar and farmworkers endured for the sake of the movement. Taylor had found a local theater in Delano that she had taken a picture of; she was struck by the story we had heard earlier from Paul Chavez, who told us how Cesar and his wife Helen were asked to move to the sides of a similar theater in Delano in the 60’s while out on a date due to the racist ideal perpetuated at the time.

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Me together with my awesome team of students on presentation day.

This was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and i’m grateful for the opportunity to have walked in Cesar’s footsteps and help a great group of students put these important sites on the map using Historypin. You can view the collections the students created here.