¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 4 (Part 5)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 4 (Part 5)
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The primary source document described below, which can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail at right, is part of a 1,434-page file on César Chávez and the farmworker movement compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 1965 and 1973. The FBI's surveillance of Chávez, which paralleled larger efforts to prove that protest groups of the civil rights era had been infiltrated by subversive influences, was unable to uncover any evidence of communism or corruption in the activities of Chávez and his followers.

The FBI's dossier on Chávez was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which contains provisions that allowed the FBI to withhold portions of the documents from public view. Indeed, many parts—and in some cases, entire pages—have been excised from the files. Nevertheless, the collection provides a compelling window into the efforts of the farmworker movement, as well as the values and methods of the FBI itself.


These documents from October and November 1968 cover United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC)-organized demonstrations in New York City and Chicago, as well as the walkout of Mexican American students at Edcouch-Elsa High School in South Texas [File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 3)].

On October 25, the FBI's office in New York reported that the UFWOC was planning an "anti-Nixon vigil" at the campaign office of then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon. According to a source, the purpose of the demonstration was to protest Nixon's support of grape growers. A political opponent of Cesar Chavez's union, Nixon, as president, would go on to direct the U.S. Department of Defense to increase its purchase of California table grapes in an attempt to break the UFWOC's nationwide grape boycott. A report transmitted later that night said that approximately 40 people participated in the vigil, including city council member and future New York City mayor Ed Koch.

In a memo dated November 15, the FBI's Pittsburgh office relayed that UFWOC organizer Albert Rojas had obtained a permit for a march in support of the grape boycott. The following summer, Rojas would organize demonstrations in Pittsburgh in protest of the sale of grapes by Kroger grocery stores [File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 7)].

On November 18, the FBI's office in San Antonio sent a letterhead memorandum to the Bureau regarding the student walkout at Edcouch-Elsa High School, where Mexican American youth, organized by the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO), were calling for equal opportunities and protesting unfair treatment by teachers, the poor condition of their school buildings, and being punished for speaking Spanish in class. According to the FBI memo, the protesting students were "allegedly being led by or associated with" members of the UFWOC or La Raza Unida. It also includes copies of newspaper articles about the walkout, including a piece from the Valley Morning Star which carried a photograph of the UFWOC Aztec eagle flag being waved at a student demonstration.
 

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