Latino leaders anticipate arrival of Chavez statue

When the Cesar Chavez statue is unveiled on Oct. 9 on the West Mall it will hold a special significance for McCombs School of Business adviser Steve Alvarez.

"This is the culmination of many years of hard work and ties into his life and what Cesar Chavez stood for the quest for better working conditions for migrant workers," Alvarez said.

Chavez was a Mexican American farm worker, civil rights activist and labor leader whose work as a spiritual figure reflected his commitment to social change.

"As a migrant worker myself I know first hand what it is like to walk in the fields with no shelter, not taking breaks," Alvarez said.

Alvarez worked in the onion and cotton fields in West Texas and the Panhandle with his single mother every summer from age 7 to 11, heading back home at the start of each school year. During the months working away from home, Alvarez and his family shared a small living space with three to four families.

"We lived in poor conditions," he said. "It was a hard way to grow up, but something I will always cherish because of the time we spent with each other."

The importance of getting an education was something Alvarez's mother always expressed to him.

"My mom has a third grade education from Mexico," he said, "and she always told me, 'mi hijo, if you want a better life, get an education.' An education was my way out of poverty."

Alvarez now has bachelor's and master's degrees from the university and is working on his Ph.D. in higher education administration. As an adviser, he works with undergraduates and is a sponsor for the Hispanic Business Students Association.

Alvarez will be part of a panel presentation on "Latino Leadership on Campus: The Importance of Mentorship" at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 in the Texas Union Theater. The panel is part of the Cesar Chavez statue dedication activities.

The statue unveiling ceremony is Oct. 9 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on the Main Mall. The Chavez statue will be the first of a Latino on the university's 123-year-old campus. The ceremony, which is open to the public, will conclude with the unveiling of the statue on the West Mall. The university's Tower will be illuminated bright orange the evening of Oct. 9 in recognition of the statue.

The week of Chavez statue activities is one that psychology sophomore Maria Delgado knows will leave a lasting memory when she looks back at her college experience.

"(The statue) is a symbol that we belong on campus also," said Delgado, co-director of finance for the Latino Leadership Council, "that our ancestors did not fight in vain and that we have a wonderful community that works towards change and ultimately that we are here to stay."

The leadership council was instrumental in making the Chavez statue a reality along with the student group "We are Texas Too," formed in fall 2000. Chavez was the leader students selected to recognize through a student referendum.

Luis Guevara, past-president of the Hispanic Faculty Staff Association, said the Chavez statue makes the university more complete.

"I think the statue is an important symbol that captures not just the likeness of a Mexican American hero," he said, "but also the power of activism and social change in both the U.S. and on the university campus."

For more information on the Chavez statue project and the dedication week events go to http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/cesarchavez/index.php.