Si Se Puede, Yes We Can! History Uncovered.

Si Se Puede, Yes We Can! History Uncovered.
Thirty-seven years after Cesar Chavez’s Arizona fast,
‘Si Se Puede!—Yes We Can!’ still inspires
Arizona’s Legislature pushed through a bill sponsored by the Farm Bureau in May 1972,
denying farm workers the rights to strike and boycott during harvest seasons, making it
impossible for them to organize. The United Farm Workers asked to meet with
Republican Gov. Jack Williams, to appeal for him to veto the legislation. Instead, the
governor ordered state troopers to bring him the bill and he signed it within hours after
passage. In response to a protest by farm workers outside a hotel where he was
speaking, the governor remarked, “As far as I’m concerned, those people out there
don’t exist.”
When news of the law’s enactment reached him, Cesar Chavez responded by returning
to his native state and beginning a 25-day water-only Fast for Love. The fast quickly
took a physical toll. After a few days Cesar was bedridden. Resting on his back in a
small room, with UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta by his side, Cesar was briefed by a
group of local Latino labor and political leaders about political realities in the state.
The grower lobby that dominated state politics, the Legislature and governor were so
powerful, these Latino leaders declared, it couldn’t be beaten. Cesar silently listened
while they explained why the fast and efforts by the farm workers would be fruitless.
“No, no se puede!” (No, no it can’t be done), they kept repeating in Spanish. Then
Cesar lifted his head slightly from the pillow and whispered, “Si, si se puede!” (Yes, yes,
we can).
Dolores Huerta immediately understood the significance of the words and made the
slogan the rallying cry for the farm workers’ campaign in Arizona.
Following Cesar’s 1972 fast, during which he became so weak he was hospitalized, the
UFW mobilized thousands of labor, religious and community activists, and collected
enough signatures to force an election to recall Gov. Williams. The governor escaped
the public vote because of a partisan ruling by the state attorney general.
The state’s punitive anti-farm worker law is still on the books. Yet Cesar Chavez’s
historic fast, the UFW’s activism and the message of Si Se Puede! have fundamentally
transformed Arizona to the present day. Si Se Puede! is a registered trademark of the
United Farm Workers.
Since then, Si Se Puede! has also been adopted worldwide, inspiring advocates of
everything from other labor struggles and community empowerment to civil rights and
immigrant rights. President Barack Obama made “Si Se Puede!—Yes We Can” the
theme of his 2008 presidential campaign.