The Fight Mural

Posted on April 22nd 2015.


When California grape growers went behind the United Farm Workers boycott to move unsold grapes to Europe, things looked grim for Cesar and his newly formed union. It appeared the farm workers were fighting a fight they could not win and may be forced to go back to work (or be replaced) on unlivable wages and inhumane working conditions. At the time, farmworkers were one of the last American work groups who hadn’t been able to organize, preventing them the rights to minimum wages, 40 hour work weeks and benefits.

Led by Cesar Chavez, the UFW would eventually succeed to negotiate union contracts with the grape and other agriculture growers. It was a long fight and there were many set backs. Activists were hurt and some even killed just for supporting the right of farmworkers to organize a union. The UFW responded with non-violent tactics such as protests, petitions, and eventually a worldwide boycott that would lead to better pay and safer working conditions for their members. However, it couldn’t have worked without Cesar’s leadership, the support of empathizers, volunteers, and a relentless will to share their stories in an effort to see the cause prevail.

 The Fight Mural is located in the parking lot of a New Seasons on NE 33rd and Weidler Street, not too far from Portland’s own Cesar Chavez Blvd. Being next to a grocery store, especially one that is known for its ethical practices, it seemed like a fitting place to illustrate this piece of American history. Cesar’s quote is bookended by a head of lettuce and a cluster of grapes. My objective was to have the work echo some of the UFW propaganda from the 1960s, which can be seen in the background patterns on the wall. Many of the members were illiterate and their message was often spread through pictures and cartoons.

For me, if there is a takeaway to the Fight Mural, it is one of empowering ourselves as consumers.  With so many choices in a free market, I find Cesar’s story to still be very relevant today. I believe that we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the things we buy, where our dollars go and how that affects the lives of ourselves and others now and in the future.

“The fight was never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”

-Cesar Chavez

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Photos by Anthony Taylor and Kris Regentin

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