¡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 6 (Part 6)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 6 (Part 6)
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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 FBI documents, from October 1972 and February and May 1973, detail demonstrations held in support for the farmworker movement in Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri. The purpose of the Iowa and Ohio protests was to back United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) efforts to boycott the sale of lettuce purchased from non-union sources, while the Missouri protest was meant to bring public attention to the issue of farm worker rights.

In a memo dated October 12, 1972, the FBI reported information from sources that approximately 50 students and Iowa City residents attended a UFWOC-sponsored rally on the University of Iowa campus to show solidarity with the union's lettuce boycott. According to a source in a previous memo dated October 11, UFWOC organizer Chester Ruiz was scheduled to speak at the event.

In a teletype dated February 17, 1973, a confidential source reported to the FBI that Chávez was planning to speak at the University of Cincinnati concerning the lettuce strike, an event which would allegedly be attended by members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). According to another source, Chávez's remarks focused on the possible contamination of non-union lettuce due to the use of pesticides. Additionally, an FBI agent observed a subsequent rally held in downtown Cincinnati, where Mayor Theodore Berry and Vice Mayor Jerry Springer greeted Chávez and presented him with keys to the city.

The final memo, dated May 21, 1973, describes a UFWOC protest at a federal building in Kansas City. According to a source, the purpose of the demonstration was to advocate for issues regarding farm worker rights that were ignored by the government.

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