Chingona, Faith, Mother's Day, Parenting, Paris, Social Justice, Strong Women, Travel

Gifts My Mother Gave Me

Paris photobook-alvaradofrazier.com

Mother’s Day is fast approaching. When making my mom her gift (the photo book above) I thought about all the gifts she’s given to me. It’s not the knickknacks, stationery and candles but other gifts that have lasted a lifetime.


A few months ago, my 85-year-old mother announced to us kids, “I want to make a last trip to Paris. In springtime.” Emphasis on the word ‘last.’ 

Mom is legally blind, hard of hearing, diabetic and uses a cane-sometimes. She can’t go alone to Rite-Aid a few blocks from her house. Honestly, I didn’t want to go because she needs a lot of care-which she doesn’t recognize.

“Who’s going to go with me?”

No one volunteered; no one had the cash lying around to make a Paris trip.  
Mom can be buen chingona and when she wants what she wants she doesn’t give up. After her repeated requests, some days of guilt feelings, and knowing that this could indeed be the last trip, I used my miles and credit card to arrange the trip for the end of April. She was ecstatic. I was hesitant.

It was a journey filled with turbulence (re-directed flights, delays, personal mishaps), but we survived. More than that, we laughed, ate flaky pastries, drank lots of café crème, and best of all she told me stories I hadn’t heard before.

On the train to visit Monet’s Garden (Mom loves flowers), we struck up a conversation with a woman from Tennessee. She mentioned that the last time she was in France was in 1966, after her graduation. She looked at me and said, “Before you were born.” I let her think that.

Later, while having lunch, my mother commented on the woman’s mistake.

“You got that gift of youth from me,” she says.

Mom has always looked 15 years younger than her age. Medical personnel make her show her Medicare ID twice, verifying it with her California ID and then remark on her youthfulness.

She then proceeded to tell me about the time she dated a younger man, he was 28, and she was 51. Holy smokes, why didn’t I know that? 

When she married my dad, who she met at a dance on the Air Force base, she received a shock when they went to city hall for a marriage license. He pulled out a permission slip from his mother, he was 17 years old, and she was 25.

Mom loved visiting the cathedrals in Paris. Although I’m no longer Catholic, I took her to Mass at Notre Dame. She insisted on kneeling on the hard wood footrest during the appropriate times, even though I had to pull her up when it was time to stand. 

There are several side chapels at Notre Dame, one of them the Virgin of Guadalupe, her favorite. She lit a candle and knelt before the image for several minutes. 
Virgin of Guadalupe Notre Dame-alvaradofrazier

Afterwards, we talked about the small altars she constructed in every place we lived. I often saw her praying on her knees in the early morning

She said sometimes we were so poor she didn’t have 50 cents in her pocket (we were four kids, she was divorced) but something always came through. She’s a strong woman and she gave me the gift of faith.

After a trip through Musee d’Orsay, Mom commented on a painting, “One of my favorites.” She recalled first seeing the Renoir painting in her art book at community college. She received two B.A. degrees, which took eight years, while working full time, with four kids to support. She gave me the gift of perseverance and goal setting.

Our trip was almost over, and we had left shopping for souvenirs to the end. We started out early, the streets looked desolate, no crowds, and few cars. It was May 1. I had forgotten that May Day is a very big thing in most European countries and most stores would be closed. We were almost at our Metro stop when Mom noticed a crowd waving French flags and I noticed a huge police presence on a side street.

Of course, she wanted to see what was happening, up close. Crowds of people gathered for their May Day march. Chanting, flags, and orange smoke filled the air. We remained there for 20 minutes until it looked too crowded and dangerous to stay. Mom acquiesced to leaving after yelling “Viva Francia,” with an upheld fist. Oh-kay.
MayDay Paris-alvaradofrazier.com

While on the empty metro, Mom told me the story of her participation in marches. I already knew about her involvement in demonstrations with Cesar Chavez and our community to get more parks and recreation for families, because she took us along, but I didn’t know the whole story.

“The scariest march was against the Ku Klux Klan,” she said.

My head swiveled towards her at that remark. We didn’t live in the south we’re California people. She told me that the KKK came to our hometown in the ’70’s and planned a convention and showing of “Birth of A Nation,” at our largest venue. The info leaked out, and the “Committee Against Racism,” which Mom was a member, obtained a permit to protest in front of the venue.

“When I saw these men with steel pipes, baseball bats, bricks, I knew they would use them.” In the face of that, she remained with the protest. The protest turned violent between the protestors, KKK, and police. The KKK left and has never returned to this town. From her involvement in these protests, she gave me the gift of commitment to social justice.

On the last day of our trip, after whirlwind shopping, we paused to eat in Café Victor Hugo. She remembered he was the novelist of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. She recalled her favorite teacher, Mrs. Roddy from Nebraska. I asked what made her think of a teacher and where she was from after 75 years.

“Mrs. Roddy loved Nebraska and reading. Whenever I read out loud, she’d pat my shoulder and smile. She encouraged me to keep reading when I left grammar school. I’d visit her even when I was in Middle School. She was interested in what I was reading. I remember reading the Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Mom has always been a voracious reader. I remember in fifth grade picking up her True Confession magazines, in sixth, reading her copy of Mandingo, and in eighth grade reading her college texts on sociology. 

We had a large supply of books throughout my childhood when she purchased, on a long payment plan, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Bible Stories, and the Children’s Classics.

Even though Mom is legally blind, she reads the headlines of her daily newspaper and reads large print books, slowly, but she finishes. She gave me the gift and love of reading. 
I’m glad I went on this trip with my mom. It did bring her aging into intimate view, which made me sad. But she gave me more happiness than she’ll ever know. Her long life has been meaningful, she’s passed on gifts that I hope I’ve passed down to my kids, and she’s given me priceless memories. 
Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez Day, Hilda Solis, Martyrs of UFW, Social Justice, Strong Women, UFW

How Cesar Chavez and UFW Martyrs Impacted Social Justice

March 31st is a State Holiday in California and optional in Colorado and Texas. It is a holiday that honors Cesar Chavez, a great social justice leader and establishes this day as one that promotes service to the community. Earlier I wrote about the connection of Cesar Chavez and the UFW to our family.

On Monday, March 26, 2012 Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, hosted the Induction of the Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement into the Labor Hall of Honor and the naming of the César E. Chávez Memorial Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Michael Peña, actor and star of the upcoming film “Chávez,” served as the event’s master of ceremonies.

The Induction of the Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement publicly recognized and honored collective, broad-based action in the area of social and worker justice. This year the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) will celebrate its 50th Anniversary.

The strength of their collective action led to such accomplishments 
  • The abolishment of the short handled hoe that crippled generations of farm workers.
  • Unemployment, disability and workers’ compensation benefits for farm workers;
  •  Establishment of labor contracts with employers that require rest periods,
  •  Toilets in the fields,
  •  Clean drinking water, hand washing facilities,
  •  Protective clothing against pesticide exposure,
  •  Banning pesticide spraying while workers are in the fields
  •  Outlawing DDT and other dangerous pesticides,
  •  Eliminating farm labor contractors and guaranteeing farm workers seniority rights and job security
  •  Creation of a pension plan for retired farm workers, a credit union
  •  and comprehensive union health benefits for farm workers and their families.

History about UFW Martyrs Inducted into Labor Hall of Fame:
Nan Freeman: an 18-year old college freshman from Wakefield, Massachusetts who gave her life while picketing with striking farm workers in central Florida in the middle of the night because of her love for justice. In Cesar’s words, Nan was Kadosha in the Hebrew tradition, a “holy person” to be forever honored.
Rufino Contreras: a 27 year old husband, father of two and a dedicated union activist who was shot to death in the Imperial Valley lettuce field for demanding a more just share of what he himself produced during the 1979 vegetable industry strike
Nagi Daifallah: a young Muslim immigrant from South Yemen who was killed during the 1973 grape strike after he gave himself completely to the union to escape the trap of powerlessness. Nagi immigrated to this country to escape poverty, only to rediscover it in California’s rich fields and vineyards. He learned English, could communicate well, served as a translator for UFW organizers and became active with the union.
Juan De La Cruz: a 60-year old immigrant from Mexico, a gentle man who knew firsthand the benefits of a UFW contract. He was also a grape striker and an original union member recruited by Cesar in the early ‘60s. Juan died two days after Nagi’s killing when shots rang out on a vineyard picket line and Juan shielded his wife, Maximina, with his body.
Rene Lopez was only 21 when he came home and proudly told his mother, “Here is my first union card. Now I am important. Now I am a man.” A short time later, grower goons gunned Rene down just after he voted in a union election at Sikkema Dairy near Fresno, which he and his co-workers were striking. Rene was young, but, as Cesar observed, “he had already felt the call to social justice.”
In case you haven’t read the official proclamation:
                             BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
                                                                  A PROCLAMATION
One of our Nation’s great civil rights leaders, Cesar Estrada Chavez came of age as a migrant farm worker, witnessing the injustice that pervaded fields and vineyards across California. Facing discrimination, poverty, and dangerous working conditions, laborers toiled for little pay and without access to even the most basic necessities. Yet amidst hardship and abuse, Cesar Chavez saw the promise of change — the unlimited potential of a community organized around a common purpose. 
Today, we celebrate his courage, reflect on his lifetime of advocacy, and recognize the power in each of us to lift up lives and pursue social justice.
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other visionary leaders, Cesar Chavez based his campaign on principles of nonviolence, which he called “the quality of the heart.” Through boycotts, fasts, strikes, and marches that demanded both endurance and imagination, he drew thousands together in support of “La Causa” — a mission to ensure respect, dignity, and fair treatment for farm workers. Alongside Dolores Huerta, he founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), an organization tasked with defending and empowering the men and women who feed the world.
As a tribute to Cesar Chavez’s life and work, my Administration designated the Forty Acres site in Delano, California, as a National Historical Landmark last year, forever commemorating the birthplace of the UFW. In May 2011, the United States Navy named the USNS Cesar Chavez in recognition of his service during World War II. And this month, we honor ten Americans as Champions of Change for their commitment to realizing Cesar Chavez’s dream of a more just tomorrow. Decades after his struggle began, Cesar Chavez’s legacy lives on in all who draw inspiration from the values of service, determination, and community that ignited his movement.
On the 85th anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s birth, we are reminded of what we can accomplish when we recognize our common humanity. He told us, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” As we honor his broad ambitions and expansive vision, let us pledge to stand forever on the side of equal opportunity and justice for all.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2012, as Cesar Chavez Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Cesar Chavez’s enduring legacy.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-third day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
BARACK OBAMA

You don’t have to be a Californian to commemorate the spirit of this holiday. As an individual how can you be of service to your community this weekend? How can your actions uplift someone else, create a better environment, or make a difference?

Wishing you creative thoughts, blessings, and peace.