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Two Lectures To Honor Chavez
March 24, 2006

Calvin College will host two lectures in early April to honor Cesar Chavez.

The first will take place at 3:30 pm on Thursday, April 6 in the Commons Lecture Hall at Calvin. It will feature Barbara Wells, associate professor of sociology at Maryville College in Tennessee. She will speak on "Negotiating Work and Family in California's Imperial Valley: Listening to the Voices of Mexican American Women."

That night at 7 pm in the Commons Lecture Hall, Calvin professor of history Ronald Wells (Barbara's husband) will speak on "Cesar Chavez's Protestant Allies: The California Migrant Ministry and the Farm Worker's Movement, 1962-1975."

Both lectures are co-sponsored by Calvin's Mellema Program in Western American Studies and the college's Gender Studies Program. Both are free and open to all.

Ronald Wells notes that March 2006 marks the 40th anniversary of Cesar Chavez's historic 1966 Peregrinación or Pilgrimage from Delano to the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento to draw national attention to the struggles and conditions of farm workers.

He says the focus of his talk fits in nicely with that anniversary.

"I will look at the California Migrant Ministry," he says, "a Protestant organization that worked very closely with Cesar Chavez and the farm workers movement in the 1960s and 1970s."

Wells is a long-time historian of both California and the Presbyterian faith, and says it was a pleasure for him to bring those two interests together in his research about an organization that Cesar Chavez credited as extremely valuable to the success of the strike and boycott in the fields during the Latino Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Barbara Wells' talk will be on second-generation Mexican American families, and will be based on her sabbatical research in the Imperial Valley of California. She was a research fellow at the Center for Border Studies, at the regional campus of San Diego State University, located in Calexico, on the Mexican border in Imperial County.

Wells says Chavez was both a civil rights and labor leader, and a religious and spiritual figure.

The Cesar Chavez Foundation website notes that Chavez was a strong believer in the principles of nonviolence practiced by Gandhi and King. In 1968 he fasted for 25 days to affirm his personal commitment and that of the farm labor movement to non-violence. He fasted again for 25 days in 1972, and in 1988, at the age of 61, he endured a 36-day "Fast for Life" to highlight the harmful impact of pesticides on farm workers and their children.