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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to dedicate Delano farmworker landmark

February 21, 2011 | 10:27 am

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy sits next to Cesar Chavez, weakened by fasting, in Delano in 1968.

It's the place where Sen. Robert Kennedy handed Cesar Chavez a scrap of bread to end his 25-day fast on behalf of farmworkers rights. It's where Central Valley-area grape growers agreed, after five years of pickets and boycotts, to sign a labor contact with the workers who harvested their fruit.

On Monday, the once-barren plot known as "Forty Acres" will be dedicated as a National Historic Landmark. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Paul F. Chavez, Cesar Chavez's son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation; and United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez will join other Chavez family members and hundreds of schoolchildren, supporters and veterans of long-ago strikes and boycotts in formally dedicating the Forty Acres site just west of Delano.

Many of the most momentous events that shaped Chavez's movement, which inspired millions of people to social and political activism, took place at Forty Acres during the 1960s,'70s and '80s. Forty Acres hosts the adobe-brick cooperative gas station where Chavez fasted for 25 days to rededicate the movement to nonviolence in February and March 1968, and where Kennedy, then a presidential candidate, came to help break the fast.

It's also the site of the union hall where growers signed their first union contracts. In the 1970s, a large medical clinic and 58-unit retirement village for farmworkers was built. Forty Acres is still where the farmworker movement organizes and works daily.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Farm Workers.

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-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: Sen. Robert F. Kennedy sits next to Cesar Chavez, weakened by fasting, in Delano in 1968. Credit: John Kouns

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