Famous Fasts in History Cesar Chavez

About the famous faster Cesar Chavez, history and biography of the labor activist.

FAMOUS FASTS

CESAR CHAVEZ

Cesar Chavez, head of the National Farm Workers' Association, resorted to fasting in an effort to cool the escalating violence in the struggle to form a national farm workers' union. In order to achieve better living and working conditions, the farm workers went on strike in 1965, but it was not until Feb. 14, 1968, that the frustrated and concerned Chavez began his fast. For the first five days he kept his fast to himself. Then, before an assembly of striking workers, he told his people what he was doing. Chavez's fast took on the aura of a religious penitencia ("penance"). Workers in tents held vigils for him, traffic was routed around the area, offerings were made, and priests said special Masses for him each night. Chavez fasted for 20 days; he lost 35 lb. and verged on illness. Worried, his doctor urged that Chavez at least drink a small amount of bouillon and fruit juice and be cared for medically. Chavez yielded to his doctor's wishes for two days and then continued his fast for four more days, finally announcing it was over on Mar. 11, the 26th day. Chavez's fast had a positive impact on the direction of the farm workers' cause. However, their demands for a union were not met until the summer of 1970.

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