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MSU hosts 14th annual Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta Commemorative Celebration

March 26, 2024
Amanda Flores and Elias Lopez are speaking about the value of migrant agriculture at the Kellogg Center on March 25, 2024.
Amanda Flores and Elias Lopez are speaking about the value of migrant agriculture at the Kellogg Center on March 25, 2024. —

Last night, Michigan State University hosted its 14th annual Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta Commemorative Celebration at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. 

The event featured workshops earlier in the day, with the commemoration taking place in the evening. The Celebration Committee Co-Chairs Amanda Flores and Elias Lopez introduced the event; they were followed by Sofia Acevedo and Daniel Oropeza, two United Farm Workers of America organizers at MSU, who presented the Farmworker’s Prayer.

MSU President Kevin Guskeiwicz offered remarks on the importance of the commemoration, as well as the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

The theme of the event was Cosechando Nuestros Sueños, which translated means "Harvesting Our Dreams." In his introduction, Lopez noted this theme reflects the American dream that so many migrant farm workers seek when they move to the United States. He spoke to the sacrifices made and hope they have to provide their children with a better future. 

Following introductory speeches, the keynote address of the event was given by Mónica Ramírez, founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women, a policy and administrative advocacy group.

Ramirez acknowledged the significance of Farmworkers Awareness Week, as well as the work of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerte. There is much work that still needs to be done, she said.

At the end of her keynote speech, Ramirez encouraged students and community members in the audience to dream and work, despite obstacles.

“The harvest multiples,” Ramirez said. “And it will continue to multiply for the fulfillment and betterment of all of us.”

During the event dinner, Mariachi son de Mexico performed for the event's attendees. Following the performance, there was an awards ceremony with awards presented by Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan Executive Director Isabel Montemayor-Vasquez.

Awards were given for Faculty of the Year to Patricia Marin, Staff of the Year to Rachel Perez, Latinx Grassroots Organization of the Year to Timetzalimet and Student of the Year to both George Ramirez Madrigal and Frank Duarte

The event came to a close with a performance by former MSU student Kiara Zarate. Zarate performed "De Colores," a song she said was personal for her and all farm workers. 

“(The song) was very important and very pivotal in migrant farm workers and seasonal farmworkers lives,” Zarate said. “My mom told me that my grandpa would sing this while he was working and it was kind of like a song of hope for the farmworkers.”

Zarate said performing this song and being able to dedicate it to her grandparents, Procoro De Leon, Maria De Leon, Elias Zarate and Consuelo Zarate, was important for her because she aims to keep representing them in all that she does

“If you look at the lyrics of the song, it talks about like, ‘look at the beautiful colors, look at the beautiful birds that come and sing to us, look at the sounds that we hear,’” Zarate said. “It's a great representation of that hope and strength that farmworkers have had forever, and it might be a hard job to do, but they're passionate about it, because they know that they're providing food for people and it's amazing.”

This representation is also a part of why Event Committee Co-Chair and Senior Associate Director of the College Assistance Migrant Program at MSU, Elias Lopez, believes the event is important. Not only is the event a means of commemorating Chavez and Huerta, Lopez said, but it is also a way to bring attention to the needs, challenges and issues that are still extremely present in the farming community. 

“I think that to a certain extent, there's no information or knowledge about who's putting food on our tables,” Lopez said. “And then here at Michigan State, we have a whole program dedicated to supporting farmworkers students … There's many people on this campus that still don't know that farmworkers are right here on our campus.”

Lopez added that the commemoration also provided the CAMP program and MSU community with a unique opportunity for recognition.

“There's very few times in the year that we have an opportunity to do, you know, to bring programming that highlights the contributions and the work that our students' families are doing,” he said

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To have events like this at an institution like MSU, Lopez said, is a responsibility that the school has with its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and also to its students.

“If we're not creating spaces where we are educating people to be able to learn about different cultures, understand people from different walks of life, then we're doing students a disservice,” Lopez said

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