A line of marchers stretched a quarter-mile in the blazing, humid afternoon. The 21st Annual Cesar Chavez March for Justice was driven by chanting, singing and paletas (popsicles), provided by local paletero (ice cream vendors) men on bikes.
“Viva los Estados Unidos,” Gabriel Quintero Velasquez, event coordinator roared through his megahorn as marchers echoed him. “Viva Cesar Chavez!”
For two decades local activists, law enforcement, politicians, students, immigrants and people of all backgrounds gather in late March on the corner of Guadalupe and Brazos Street. in San Antonio for one man: activist and civil rights leader; Cesar Chavez.
More than 15,000 people assembled in the nucleus of the West Side for the 21st annual Cesar Chavez March for Justice on March 25.
“I’m here to march with the Raza and to show the strength in our community,” Alex Candela, a Mexican American Studies student at San Antonio College, said. “More importantly to show that we are not divided, we are united.”
The two-mile march maneuvered through downtown and concluded in front of the Alamo where a post-march event was held.
Banners, signs and shirts worn by marchers contained a plethora of messages discussing education, immigration and other social issues.
According to members of the organization, the march has consistently generated thousands of people annualy.
“Every year is a great turnout for the Cesar Chavez March,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said. “Jaime Martinez has been the glue to the march every year. . .without Jaime, I don’t think we would have as big and organized of march as we’ve had.”
Velasquez, was at the head of the of the march educating marchers, spectators and anyone within earshot.
“I’m more blown away by the commitment of the marchers than the actual turnout,” Velasquez said. “I know that 100 percent of the marchers in this one truly believe in this march.”
Lilith Tijerina, Travis Early College High School senior was one of many first-time marchers.
“I’m here not just representing Hispanics, I’m representing women, any person of color, the disabled…just any marginalized group of people,” Tijerina said. “I think it is important to remember our history because it is being erased.”
Like Tijerina, many believe that Mexican-Americans are losing their roots because public schools are “erasing” the history.
Candela gripped a sign that read “No one is better than you unless you allow it.”
“Our children are system inadequately indoctrinated in the schools and that has led to them losing a sense of our culture,” Candela said. “We already lost our roots as an indigenous people that’s why we speak English and Spanish.”
Last year, the Texas Board of Education unanimously rejected the Mexican American studies textbook which contained factual errors.
The words “No, no, nos moveran,” or they will not move us, were recited by members of San Anto Cultural Arts, a non-profit organization, during the march.
The words are a reminder that Mexican American history will not be moved or done away with.
Tijerina believes that all methods of storytelling will keep the history alive.
“I think it’s important for people to just continue telling stories,” Tijerina said. “I think talking to parents, grandparents, cousins and everybody around you and learning from real experiences and not just words from a textbook.”
Velasquez credited “oral tradition” for the knowledge Mexican Americans have of themselves.
He further articulated that the “educated” must understand the factual history and accurately document it as well as the differing opinions.
“Our educated have to write the books, the articles. . . we can’t wait for the textbook companies or the school boards,” said Velasquez. “When we write the books and articles, it’ll give the writers of textbooks an opportunity to quote our books.”