Tuesday night in Rackham Auditorium, Eduardo Chavez, grandson of labor activist Cesar Chavez, shared his documentary titled “Hailing Cesar.” In “Hailing Cesar,” Eduardo said he hopes to fulfill his goal of sharing Cesar’s message with the next generation. The documentary follows Eduardo working on fields and picking grapes while learning the stories of the employees. Eduardo focused the story around Cesar’s work on the fields.
Eduardo also answered questions from a diverse audience. Students from Cesar Chavez Academy High School in Detroit, students from the University of Michigan’s La Casa organization and residents of Ann Arbor attended the event hosted by the Trotter Multicultural Center and the University of Michigan Latino/a Studies Program under the Department of American Culture.
Maria Eugenia Cotera, former director of the Latina/o Studies Program and the daughter of an activist herself, fielded questions for Eduardo and opened the discussion by asking Eduardo how it feels being the grandson of an activist, and if there are feelings of guilt for not being more active in United Farm Workers, the organization his grandfather created.
“Growing up, I always felt a little disconnected and it was something that I pushed to the side,” Eduardo said. “I could give a memorized spiel about who he was and what he did but I didn’t feel a personal connection.”
The son of a Mexican father and a Cuban mother, Eduardo confessed he has come to identify more with his Cuban heritage.
“I actually feel more Cuban than I do Mexican,” Eduardo said. “I grew up more with my mom’s side of the family, always visiting my Cuban grandparents in Miami.”
However, he found that he grew closer to his father through this experience.
“I definitely feel through the process of this film closer to my dad and that side of the family,” Eduardo said.
Eduardo’s father gave him the advice that if he were to take on an activist role, it should come naturally. Through this film, Eduardo was able to find both his passion and his sense of duty.
“After making this film, I found my passion was filmmaking,” Eduardo said. “I get the best of both worlds — that I can make films and educate people at the same time. I can pursue my own creative endeavors.”
His grandfather shared the same approach to life. When asked by an audience member what question he would ask Cesar today, Eduardo stated he would want to know what kept him going despite all the obstacles he faced. Eduardo shared that he already knew the answer and that his grandfather believed the key to succeeding in life is having a passion for what you do.
“My grandfather used to always say ‘I’m not any different than anyone else, I just have a passion and I see what’s wrong and I try my hardest to fix it,’” Eduardo said.
This statement resonated with LSA freshman Justin Hutchins, who said he believes it is imperative the general public learn more about historical figures and discover how human they really are.
“There’s so much more you can learn about these historical figures and the human aspect of it,” Hutchins said. “They seem like not normal people, but even Cesar said he himself is just a normal guy.”
Overall, the members of La Casa found the event both inspiring and essential for the Latinx community. Julianna Collado, external director of La Casa, believed the documentary showing helped bring the community together and fostered a friendly environment.
“We thought this was a really important event to help center our community as Latinx students on campus,” Collado said. “We really just wanted to focus on empowering our students, getting an education, getting a piece of their history, because so many people [in this group] identify as Mexican.”
Ronnie Alvarez, lead director of La Casa, agreed and added the event helped with strengthening the Latinx community on campus.
“This event and what it was for aligns a lot with the goals of La Casa, which is a student organization that was created as not only a platform for political advocacy, but also to create a community,” Alvarez said.