¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
Teaser Image

FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 6 (Part 5)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 6 (Part 5)
Button: Click to display an enlarged version of the image.
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 the spring and summer of 1972 deal mainly with United Farm Workers (UFW)-organized protests in Arizona regarding a state bill directed against farm workers. Other documents in this series details a demonstration against U.S. Treasurer Romana Bañuelos regarding her use of undocumented labor in her food-processing business, as well as César Chávez's communication with the head of the Mexican Communist Party over the administration of a health clinic for farm workers in Mexicali, Mexico.

On March 31, 1972, the FBI's office in Phoenix reported that the UFW was planning a silent vigil at the Arizona state capitol building from April 3 to 4 over House Bill 2134, which would issue a temporary injunction prohibiting farm workers from striking, organizing, or boycotting. The passage of the bill prompted the UFW to launch a recall campaign against Gov. Jack Williams, as illustrated by a demonstration described by the FBI in an August 8 memo. While the recall campaign failed, it saw the first use of César Chávez's rallying cry "sí se puede" ("yes, it can be done") and marked a turning point in minority representation in Arizona due to the UFW's substantial voter registration efforts.

In a memo dated May 4, 1972, the Phoenix office reported that the UFW was organizing a protest at the Ramada Inn during a visit by U.S. Treasurer Romana Bañuelos over the use of undocumented workers in her business, Ramona's Mexican Food Products. A subsequent memo reported that 15 individuals associated with the UFW gathered at the Ramada Inn and held up signs protesting the use of undocumented workers in the United States.

Miscellaneous documents in the file include a June 20 letterhead memorandum in which the FBI's San Diego office reports that Chávez had visited with Julio Prado Valdez, the head of the Mexican Communist Party, in regards to the administration of a health clinic in Mexicali, a city in the Mexican state of Baja California, for members of the UFW. According to the memo, the clinic was closed as a result of a financial disagreement between Chávez and Prado.

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

ABC-cLIO Footer