A Cesar Chavez Day Special: Voices of Chandler, the Podcast, a conversation with Alberto Esparza

March 30, 2022
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Voices of Chandler

In celebration of Cesar Chavez Day, the City of Chandler presents this special episode of Voices of Chandler, The Podcast. Guest contributor, Rori Minor from the City’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division, speaks with Alberto Esparza, current President and CEO of I Rise Foundation, about how Cesar Chavez’s work inspired him to invest in his own community. Alberto Esparza worked with Cesar Chavez early in his career and has continued to lend his time and energy to social causes over the years.  

Host, Melina Zuniga, provides insight into Cesar Chavez’s legacy and why his work was so important.  

Chavez was a Mexican-American labor leader and activist. After he left school in 8th grade, he began working on farm fields. He joined the Navy, served for two years, and then returned to labor intensive farm work. Conditions for farm workers were poor. Minimum wage laws didn’t apply to them and they made little money, didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance, and often didn’t have electricity or running water in their homes.

Along with Dolores Huerta, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, and later United Farm Workers of America, and won victories to raise pay and improve working conditions in the late 1960s and 1970s. In honor of his work, Cesar Chavez Day is celebrated on March 31.

Episode Highlights:

  • Alberto Esparza grew up in Phoenix, attending Phoenix College where he joined MEChA and was inspired to do more. Esparza then went on to ASU and NAU to earn two more degrees.
  • Esparza began his activism career as a bodyguard for Cesar Chavez, giving him up-close and personal experiences with Chavez’s social movement. He also became an organizer, helping to bring more people to the marches supporting farm workers’ rights.
  • After involvement in the National Farm Workers Association, Esparza shared the humble beginnings of a now thriving nonprofit, Si Se Puede, that serves at-risk youth.
  • Obstacles are a part of the journey for Alberto, but he perseveres due to a passion and motivation to serve others.

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