What is your name? Paulino Pacheco and Victoria Pacheco
When was the first time that you met César and in what capacity? [Paulino] We met César Chávez the first 25 days he was starting the union in 1968. I was working in a company in Oakland when five of my co-workers decided to go see César. We keep going to go see him frequently. In 1969, we began to organize our own local union in the company. When we organized the union, we did not have much to offer the Farm Workers. So, César suggested to us that we should take one portion of our funds to cover the funeral expenses in case one of the Farm Workers died. Also, he suggested we put money aside into a savings account so we could borrow against it without having to pay interest. Days past, days, and then César asked us how the memberships were going in Santa Maria. We told him that nobody wanted to join. It was $15 a year for an insurance policy that came with the membership. César said not to worry about it, that they should wait for miracle. A couple of months past by when our first member with paid membership died in an automobile accident in Indio, CA on his way to Mexico. So, I called César and told him one of our members had died. César asked how old he was, because the death benefit depended upon his age. I told him he was 30-years-old. César said his benefit would be $1000. César asked where his family lived and I told him he had only his mother. César said to bring his mother and we will have fiesta to raise money to help her out with the funeral expenses. César said to call the newspapers; make up a HUGE check and hold it up in front of the television. We had the fiesta and gave his mother the check so she could return home. We had a lawyer there to make sure it was all in proper order. And it was all taken care of. Two weeks later, he called me and asked how things were going. I told him that there was a long line of people waiting to join and César said, “Didn’t I tell you that there would be a miracle.” People were joining the union.
Now that you had all of these members, what did César say to you? [Paulino] That was the 14th of June 1969. César came to Santa Maria to visit us. Before that time, he had only been with us once before. He asked what is going on in Santa Maria and we told him that not much was going on. He told us he wanted us to put toilets in the fields and have fresh water available, so the workers could rest and take a break. So, we went to Santa Maria and started talking about the toilets and the people asked what we meant by “toilets”. Never before have there been toilets in the fields; not even my grandfather had toilets. We worked real hard and so we called it the “Toilet Revolution.” We did things peacefully, so we were able to put the toilets up without much resistance. We were able to win that concession. Then the farmers put up more toilets in the fields and gave the workers fresh water. Before this, the women had to dig round holes in the ground to take care of their needs.
On the 14th of June 1969 César came to speak at the local college. The cafeteria there was jam-packed. This was the first time he had come here and the people wanted to hear him. He impressed them very much.
How did he impress you? [Paulino] Tremendously.
How? [Paulino] César was an inspiration to the farm workers. We listened to the message that he had given us when he was suffering in 1968. We knew that he was going to help us; he was going to save us, he had to help us. We could see it and we could feel it. We had hope. We knew how he was and we believed in him. He changed our lives. We were the same people, but with a different mental attitude than we had when we stared this fight.
My wife and I were in jail many times; but, after we had been in jail the first time we lost our fear. We were ready to continue our fight for the farm workers. We began to fight with greater courage.
What was your impression of him? [Paulino] He was charismatic and a man of great sympathy. A great spirit. He loved everyone. He said he knew the farmers have a lot of money; but, we didn’t have the time. We can do it; but, we cannot use violence. We have to be patient and do it peacefully. So, watch yourselves. We will win; but, only by patience, and that we were the ones that were going to do it and get justice for the workers
Do you have a memory on him? [Paulino] Yes, I have many and I’ll tell you of one.
César was always very poor. One night he came to a house where they were having a house meeting to organize a group. He had not eaten in two days. When he came into the house, he saw a huge platter of fried chicken that the woman had placed on the table. He was so hungry that he could not concentrate on the meeting. He said goodbye and went to his car. All he could think of was the chicken that was on the table in the house. So, he returned to the house, saying that he had lost his pen. He pretended that he had dropped it under the table. He reached down to pick it and, as he came up, he took a deep breath through his nose and said, “What a marvelous smell.” The wife of the worker asked him if he was hungry. He told her that he was. He established within himself, at that time, that what makes a man spiritual and believing is having confidence in oneself. From that time on he did what he could to make sure the people did not go hungry.
Do you have any memories of César? [Victoria] I have many, but I cannot talk about them.
What can you say to the school students in California? How should they remember him and what should they learn about him? [Victoria] The children should know that César was in favor of education for the children. He was felt strongly about the children and the families. The papas and the adults should be concerned that the children go to school. The adults should fight to make a better life for the children. They should be farsighted and fight to get out of the environment that they find themselves in. He left many messages. He was a man of vision. He was a prophet of his time. Men, women, and children should never forget him. He is a memory to keep for all time. He was a great example.
The men and the women were ready to make sacrifices for him. Where did that trust come from? [Paulino] He came from a peasant family. His grandfather was a peasant; he came from Mexico when he was two years old. His father was also a peasant. So, he knows the life of a peasant. He knows what it is like. He knew the suffering and enslavement of peasantry. He understood this type of life. When we were struggling, his message was, ‘We fight together. We fight for a cause and we do not use violence. And so, we stay together and fight for our cause, for our race and for your rights. We stick together for justice.’
Do you have anything more to say? [Paulino] My wife and I are very proud that we were able to participate in the story of César Chávez. And we hope that whoever studies or reads this will gain an understanding of the man that César Chávez was.