¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #105-157123 (Part 3)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #105-157123 (Part 3)
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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.

This series of documents, covering a period from January 1971 to February 1973, includes reports of César Chávez's activities in conjunction with the United Farm Workers (UFW) boycott of lettuce picked by non-union workers. It also contains coverage of Chávez's appearance in Las Vegas to protest Nevada welfare cuts; newspaper articles about a 24-day fast by Chávez and a plot to assassinate him; and letters from the public to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover requesting information on Chávez and the farmworker movement.

In the first document, dated January 25, 1971, the FBI's field office in Alexandria, Virginia, reported on the possibility of a demonstration at government offices in the Washington, D.C., area, in which 50 people of "unknown affiliations" would urge lunchtime crowds not to buy lettuce. According to the source, the Pentagon would be one target of the demonstrators; at the time, the UFW had organized protests at military facilities due to the Department of Defense's policy of purchasing non-union lettuce. Another FBI memo dated February 16, 1973, illustrates the union's efforts to expand the lettuce boycott nationwide, as Chávez was reported to arrive in Kansas City, Missouri, to organize a boycott of Safeway grocery stores.

In another memo, dated March 1, 1973, the FBI's Las Vegas field office referred to a Las Vegas Sun article about Chávez's plans to attend a march in that city in support of a national welfare rights organization's demonstration against proposed state welfare cuts. Copies of articles from The Washington Post (December 23, 1971) and The New York Times (January 1, 1972), reported on the details regarding an alleged assassination plot against Chávez. According to the articles, a former undercover informant named Larry Shears was offered $5,000 to participate in a plot, organized by certain growers in the San Joaquin Valley, to kill Chávez. A separate news article from the Phoenix Gazette (June 5, 1972) reported that Chávez had remained in the hospital after a nearly month-long fast in protest of an Arizona law that would inhibit workers' right to organize.

Also included in this batch of documents are two letters to FBI director Hoover, dated June 11 and September 8, 1971, asking for information about Chávez's political beliefs. The writer of a third letter, dated January 27, 1972, expresses negative views about Chávez and praises Hoover for his efforts against communism.
 

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