Archbishop José H. Gomez joined civil rights advocates and stars of the film “Cesar Chavez” during a dinner in the civil rights leader’s honor in downtown Los Angeles March 27 at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
“As we all know, César was not only an important labor leader,” the archbishop said. “César was one of our country’s great moral leaders — a true civil rights pioneer.”
Society faces many challenges, he said, including building a culture of life and human rights, strengthening families and schools.
“We need jobs and justice for so many people, especially our undocumented brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said to applause. “So tonight let us honor the legacy of César Chavez by dedicating ourselves again to his mission.”
That mission, he said, is of a nation where everyone is welcome and able to live “with the dignity that God intends for all his children.”
The annual awards dinner honored six of entertainment professionals involved the film’s production: director Diego Luna, producer Pablo Cruz and actors Michael Pe√±a, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera and John Malkovich.
“It shows us that if we don’t give up, then victory is within reach,” said Paul Chavez, César’s son and the president of the César Chavez Foundation. “What my dad and the other workers showed is that if you don’t give up, you can make a change.”
He hopes the film will inspire people to keep fighting, especially in their pursuit of immigration reform.
The film depicts César as a man of faith. Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe appear often and César breaks his longest fast by receiving Holy Communion.
Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, said faith is still a part of the movement. He worked with César for 20 years.
“The Virgin Mother was always present,” he said, “we always felt her protection.”
Rodriguez hopes the film will encourage a new generation of activists.
“The film depicts challenges,” he said. “But overwhelming message is that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.”