People really don't want to drive on "Cesar Chavez Blvd"

Karol Collymore

I don't get it. What is so scary about a street named Cesar Chavez Jr.? Why are we attached to streets named after inanimate objects? It clearly scared some North Portlanders and frightened off the Portland City Council. Now its doing the same thing in Dallas. The city opened up the renaming of "Industrial Blvd (sound familiar?)" to Dallas residents and they got a seemly unpleasant surprise:

Dallas officials' 'uh-oh' moment came when they received the results of their summer survey. Having favored scenic-sounding names such as Riverfront and Trinityview for the waterside development, officials were stunned by the top choice: "Cesar Chavez Boulevard."

Hispanics, who make up 43% of the city's population, had seized the survey as a chance to honor the Latino farm-labor hero. Several other cities, from Albuquerque, N.M., to Milwaukee, had renamed streets for him years ago.

There was an overwhelming vote for "Cesar Chavez Blvd." as a name. Easy decision, right? Change the name, have a party and everyone have a drink. Apparently, it wasn't that easy.

Dallas lawmakers -- less than pleased that the name didn't exactly connote waterfront splendor -- balked, setting off months of wrangling in crowded public forums at City Hall and in heated online debates.

Less than pleased, eh? They ask for a vote, get one and then don't support it because it doesn't "connote waterfront splendor?" Then why ask?

I know there are folks who don't understand why naming a street after Chavez is a big deal. One woman said in a Portland meeting - out loud in front of PEOPLE - that guests of Oregon wouldn't get off of the I-5 freeway because Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez Jr, and Martin Luther King Jr all in a row would "scare people." I was so shocked I couldn't even make my mouth move in protest.

Let's be honest. It's not about the name, its about Latino communities wanting acknowledgment that heroes come in all colors. Latinos want acknowledgment for their hero who was not just a leader for them, but for all of us whether we know it or not. We aren't getting it and Dallas isn't getting it.

Read the rest of the story here.

  • Roey Thorpe (unverified)

    I guess no one stops to think that maybe some people would rather not drive on a street named after General Sherman, do they? Maybe the people who are freaked out about this would be more comfortable with a street named after someone who didn't stand for anything, like Juan Valdez or Carmen Miranda. Quick, email city council and tell them that Dora the Explorer Blvd. is just what we need!

  • Roey Thorpe (unverified)

    Oh, and PS to all the history buffs out there--I know that Sherman was on the right side in the Civil War--I'm referring to his role in leading the government assault on Native Americans in the so-called Indian Wars.

  • j_luthergoober (unverified)

    Ya really want to stir sh*t up in Progressive-land; how 'bout naming a street after who I believe to be the greatest American ever... If we can't change Interstate Avenue to Intercourse Drive, how 'bout Margaret Sanger Boulevard???

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    I can't read this. The idea that people care that much about the name of the street that they're driving on, yet can rationalize all kinds of reasons for the fact that they're DRIVING... Debating the former is essential to our lifestyle, but questioning the latter is liberal nit-picky?!?

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Of course I meant Dallas, not present company! We don't simply drive on streets.

  • rw (unverified)

    Watch out Roey, someone will tell you that he was a perfectly wonderful man and perfectly progressive for his times, and how ignorant you are to consider his acts in the light of NOWday as opposed to THENday... heheheheheh.

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    at first I thought this article was cool...until I realized you were talking about Dallas, TX not Dallas, Oregon.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)

    It could be that people would rather see a statue of Mr. Chavez, or maybe some building named after him. Both options would be a fair compromise with folks who honestly don’t want the bother and confusion of a needless street name changing.

    In addition a statue or building would allow for some kind of plaque providing some info on the honored citizen, in Mr. Chavez’s case his vehement opposition to illegal immigration.

  • zull (unverified)

    So, basically, Portlanders didn't mind having one of the oldest streets in Portland, Front Ave., renamed after a rich local bigwig (Naito), but they just can't stand having another street named after a civil and labor rights icon...and here we are, all thinking we're a fairly progressive city. I live right off Naito Pkwy...I'd have no problem whatsoever with it being renamed Cesar Chavez Parkway, in fact, I'd be just fine with it. But apparently renaming a generic road after someone who has done great things for people just doesn't fly with these, and I'm going to call them what they are, racists. You hear their arguments, and the only thing you can think is that they're dead afraid that naming a street after a Hispanic man will somehow cause lots of Hispanic people to move into their neighborhood. Some of them are completely blatant about that, and it's complete bigotry. These are the same people who are convinced that because roads were named after Martin Luther King Jr., they instantly attracted crime. And yet, when I walk along MLK here in Portland, which was already located in a shady area to begin with, it's actually pretty trendy in a lot of places. It's just pure racism and that's all there is to it.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    I thought identity politics died with the election of Obama. I guess not.

    @zull: I think you hit on an important point, that Naito was local while Chavez was not.

    Since we are going to continue to play this stupid game, how about naming a street for a famous Norwegian-American: James Arness. For 20 years, he starred on television's "Gunsmoke" as Marshal Matt Dillon. A true example of a "law-n-order" lawman who could be a needed role model for the PPB. I am of Norwegian ancestry and it would make my "people" really proud.

    Or what about our very own labor leader, Andrew Furuseth. Born in Romedal, Norway, he became America's chief exponent of the rights of sailors to safe working conditions. Furuseth served as president of the International Seamen's Union from 1908-38.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    Naming places or streets or buildings after dead people seems a lot more important to some of you than it does to me, but whatever you want to do is ok with me as long as it does not screw up the GPS system in my car.

    Maybe all north-south streets could be named for progressives, and all east-west streets could be named for red necked repubs. Sizemore Blvd. has a certain ring to it.

    Just an idea.

  • karol (unverified)

    MP, the election of one man doesn't change an entire landscape. I also don't consider this identity politics. If we are truly rising above, why can't we as a community acknowledge Chavez's role in helping improve our country? Why does he spark such vehement opposition?

  • ws (unverified)

    "Hispanics, who make up 43% of the city's population...." excerpt, Wall Street Journal article quoted above.

    In Portland, they don't make up 43% of the city's population, correct? Do Hispanics represent that percentage of the population in the Interstate neighborhood?

    In fact, according to a wiki entry about Dallas, non-hispanic whites represent less than one third of the Dallas population total. By percentage of population alone, Hispanics actually represent the largest ethnic population in Dallas.

    The situation in Dallas regarding naming of a key street to Cesar Chavez seems very much different than the one here in Portland. In Dallas, if that city's leader's had bothered to pay any attention to that city's own demographics, they should have easily been able to figure out that a broad base of support for a street name change honoring a major Hispanic leader likely existed.

    According to the WSjournal article, a power struggle between several clearly defined ethic groups within in the city and in city leadership, has much to do with the contention going on over the name chosen. The existence of racism in that particular struggle seems indisputable.

    Cesar Chavez's life and work would clearly be a significant figure in the identity of a major portion of the Dallas population. If Dallas city officials had any honor at all, after seeing the results of the survey, street-naming poll, whatever it was they presented to the public to rename the street in question, they would have done so with great celebration.

  • sean cruz (unverified)

    Racially and ethnically, Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American; more specifically, a Chicano.

    His struggles and accomplishments stemmed from his experience in the world of mostly Mexican migrant farm workers.

    It was not a Hispanic experience or a Latino experience; it was very specifically a Mexican-American experience, subject to discrimination and injustice at every stage of life in these United States.

    One cannot begin to honor the memory of Cesar Chavez without understanding those fundamental facts.

    As well-meaning as many Portlanders are regarding Cesar Chavez, the public discussion is stifled by the prevalence of so many wrong assumptions….

    Renaming a street is not a Latino community issue or a Hispanic community issue; it is an idea brought forth by the only two people who have publicly identified themselves as being members of the Committee; an idea that was seized upon by other well-meaning but badly misinformed Portlanders.

    Their campaign has been as badly handled as anything Emily Boyles ever put together, but probably ranking higher on the embarrassment scale.

    The Chavez Committee has failed to educate the public with any discussion of this Mexican-American hero’s life and accomplishments, has offered nothing but negative attitude to the process, has frozen out any other ideas but that of its own two members.

    Like Cesar Chavez, I am the son and grandson of Mexican farmworkers, and a Chicano. I would like to see this great man honored in the City of Portland in a permanent, physical and public way as much as any other person in the present commotion.

    But it doesn’t have to be a street renaming to suit me, I am in no way stuck on that.

    A library, a school, a park or a bridge; all make more sense if we are talking about the Cesar Chavez familiar to most Mexican Americans, most Chicanos.

    With all due respect, if you knew anything more than a paragraph deep about Cesar Chavez, you would understand that.

    More thoughts on this subject are here:

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    Well, I'm quite certain that there's a healthy amount of racism in the reaction against a Cesar Chavez Blvd.

    I also think there's a decent amount of racism in the placement of these streets -- always in low-income neighborhoods. (If we're going to be picking a street to rename, I nominate Vista Avenue in the West Hills.)

    That said, I do think there are legitimate reasons why people oppose street renamings. There are substantial business costs and there are issues of neighborhood identity.

    If there are no other options, then, sure, rename a street. But I propose a better idea: We're about to build a new bridge over the Willamette for light rail. Let's name it the Cesar Chavez Bridge.

    Easy solution: An appropriately substantial honor. A new landmark. Nothing renamed.

  • Pro Small Business Dem (unverified)

    Street renaming has a serious and hard to measure impact on small business. Advertising collateral (business cards, print ads, yellow page ads, websites, promotional products) must all be re-developed. Years of word-of-mouth advertising must be re-learned ("it's a great place, it's on ... uh, I can't remember what they call it now ... oh, nevermind, just go to Wal-Mart").

    We can honor heroes without targeting small businesses for added costs during the worst recession in 50 years.

    Rename a public building. Build a statue. If we're going to spend money - directly or indirectly - honoring another hero in the middle of a recession (instead of feeding people and keeping them warm), the cost should be borne by everyone, not shunted onto small businesses.

    Street renaming should come with a per-business impact payment, so that activists and politicians have to account for the true cost of their actions.

  • rw (unverified)

    Thanks, Sean. GOod post.

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    I think opposition to a Chavez Blvd. is partially driven by a lack of knowledge about the man, his life and his contributions to American society. I went to high school in the 80s and our study of American history stopped with the Korean War, or maybe the Bay of Pigs. I didn't know a thing about MLK Jr. until a friend took me on a tour of the Lincoln Memorial. I knew little about Chavez beyond grape boycotts until quite recently (mostly after doing research on the web once the renaming issue made headlines.)

    A street being renamed for symbolic reasons ought to have that symbolism made clear to everyone. Today I doubt many Americans think of MLK or Rosa Parks as African-American heroes as much as they view them both as American heroes. There connection to the whole country makes it meaningful to have streets in Portland named after both of them. You could argue that the same situation ought to be the case for Chavez, but the controversies in Dallas and Portland show that it clearly isn't so. I would recommend an education campaign to accompany the finger pointing. (And objections based on the business costs associated with renaming should also not be dismissed out of hand without real consideration on how to mitigate those costs.)

  • Eric Berg (unverified)

    Some of the opposition in Portland stems from how the mayor and commissioners allowed allowed the last re-naming effort to go from bad to worse. The best thing the current campaign has going for it is the City finally appears to be following its own rules. The worst thing supporters can do is brand everyone who doesn't back a namec hange as bigots.

    As a social justice Catholic and strong supporter of worker rights, Chavez is a personal hero. I met him when I was a teenager. There's a poster of him about four feet from me. But I'm ambivalent on the re-naming any Portland street after him.

    [Many BO readers may not know Colegio Cesar Chavez operated in Mt. Angel (my hometown) from 1973-83. It was the first accredited four-year Chicano institution in the country. When I was in the third grade, two CCC came to my school and taught us silkscreening. Imagine the ruckus when we went home that day with "Uvas No!" posters. One of my classmates was a Kraemer, of Kraemer Farms, one of the state's largest, which was the site of the Oregon's first farmworkers strike in 1991.]

  • Jeremy Wright (unverified)

    So I worked as an organizer for the UFW, in labor additional years have lived in North Portland for almost ten years and currently live on the corner of Interstate and Winchell. I consider Cesar Chavez a American hero.

    And I opposed the renaming.

    So don't come calling me a racist or not understanding the history or any other B.S. The thing that swayed me was a conversation with my local cofeeshop owner at Morningstar Coffee House on Interstate. These two woman are amazing small business owners who give and give to our community and are dedicated to making North Portland a great place to live. They detailed me the costs to their business for changing the street name and it was ridiculous.

    I like Kari's idea of the bridge naming. Honor a great man and do no damage.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Personally, my take is that as long as it's well-maintained and the maps are kept updated, you can any street anything you want. How about raising money for the city by selling off street names to the highest bidder?

  • A Real Mexican't (unverified)

    Racially and ethnically, Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American; more specifically, a Chicano.

    I don't know what that says but I'm real tired of hearing race and racism applied to Hispanic. Hispanics are caucasians and "Latino" didn't exist legally until LBJ made it up. It's not based on race, but your surname. If I changed my name legally to Chavez I would be Latino.

    Is it racism if it isn't a race? I've met people that think that back-hollar southern rednecks are inbred to the point that they are a sub-race and discriminate based on the belief. Are they racist?

    The civil rights movements, starting way back, are about STATE OPPRESSION. More and more we apply the concepts of international diplomacy to interpersonal relations and it is really, really stupid. "I'm sending a message", "I refuse to negotiate with ____", etc., aren't even good diplomacy! Get it out of your private lives!

    States can be fascist or racist or imperial or royal, but not individuals apart from it. It's just as stupid as talking about the exiled Iranian monarch when they don't have a monarchy. People do. If you want to deal with PEOPLE, you have to talk to them. This is why you use these concepts. You want to preach, control and force feed. As more and more "progressives" have to matriculate through overpriced universities, this trend will only grow. FDR proved it; you can be right as rain but if you don't speak to the common person, on their level about it, and find a way to bring them along, you will eventually fail. It may take 80 years, but the bunch of Neanderthals we've been dealing with for the last 8 are a classic result!

    On the name, thing, why politicians, labor leaders and men/women of influence? Power corrupts. Few are squeaky clean. Our day to day lives are based on the economy and technology. How many PDX streets are named after scientists? In my home town of Baden-Baden in Germany, almost every HS and street has either a scientist or philosopher's name on it. How long will it be before a philosopher's name on a street, here, wouldn't be a novelty? That's how long until this argument means anything.

  • joshuawelch (unverified)

    While naming streets may seem insignificant to many, it's a powerful way to empower people, regardless of the percentage of the population they represent. We recently re-named our newest elementary school "Cesar Chavez Elementary" where my wife teaches English language learners. It means a lot to the Latino community.

    "I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings." Cesar Chavez

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    So, basically, Portlanders didn't mind having one of the oldest streets in Portland, Front Ave., renamed after a rich local bigwig (Naito), but they just can't stand having another street named after a civil and labor rights icon...

    The problem with renaming Interstate Avenue in North Portland was IMHO to do with, ONCE AGAIN, the Portland City Council flouting the very ordinances that it had written...and the mayor then being a jerk by insulting the people who pointed out that, uh, excuse me, the rules had not been followed.

    The folks who want to rename a street for Chavez should do something to explain why Chavez is worthy of the honor--look, if you didn't grow up in California, he frankly may not be well known to you--and engage the community.

    The Chavez renaming effort presently under way does follow the mandated approach (signature gathering etc.). Frankly I'm rooting for 39th Avenue on the eastside to be renamed for Chavez, because it's a road that runs continuously from the south city limits to the Hollywood District--a nice long stretch. And taking one numbered street out of the grid is no big deal. And BTW I do not live too far from 39th, so I'm not suggesting pushing off the renaming into someone else's neighborhood.

    How many PDX streets are named after scientists? In my home town of Baden-Baden in Germany, almost every HS and street has either a scientist or philosopher's name on it. How long will it be before a philosopher's name on a street, here, wouldn't be a novelty?

    Similar custom prevails in, say, France.

  • zach (unverified)

    I think Fremont street (and bridge?) would be a great candidate for naming after Chavez - John C. Fremont, its current namesake, killed many innocent native people and Mexicans in his exploits as an explorer and soldier. Furthermore, even though it's a prominent street, it runs mostly through residential neighborhoods, and changing its name would not face the same level of opposition from local businesses that other suggestions have.

  • (Show?)

    The bridge idea seems smart. As a non-Hispanic resident of SE 39th Avenue I would be proud to live on Cesar Chavez Avenue. One advantage of 39th Ave. is that there are not all that many commercial addresses on it and even fewer are small businesses with identities tied to the street. At the same time the street is crossed by many busy east-west corridors (Woodstock, Holgate, Powell, Division, Hawthorne, Belmont, Stark, Burnside, Glisan, probably missing one or two here, the one just past I-84 that I know but am having cheese-brain about, Sandy ...) So the cross-traffic would see the name signs. Generally speaking when streets are renamed there is or can be a rather protracted period in which both names can be used.

    Regarding race: Latinos/Hispanics are not all Caucasian. In fact for census purposes the Hispanic category is specifically defined as coming from a Spanish-speaking ancestry regardless of race. Among the effects of this is to underestimate the number of African-descended people in the population when the census categories are used. Dominicans & descendants from the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo are Hispanic, but Haitians from what used to be French St. Domingue are Black -- same island, similar history, probably extended families near the border that cross over.

    The census categories are intellectually incoherent anyway and reflect the fact that 100 years ago "race" was used to speak of what then was also called nationality and usually has been called ethnicity since World War II and treated Jewishness ambivalently (race, nation, religion? debated among Jews themselves at the time). Anyway, you have surface "race" categories based on skin color (White, Black), language (Hispanic), and geography (Native American-Native Alaskan, Asian-Pacific Islander) although when you push on White it turns out to be having ancestry in "the historic peoples of Europe and the Middle East" -- making Jews white, and Arabs too, not quite sure about Berbers/Tamazight and Black is tied to "sub-Saharan" Africa. "Asian" of course does not recognize distinctions that would be made in popular classifications or guesses. It's all intellectually incoherent and in a biological sense there are no races that correspond to the cultural categories or appearances to which identities and characteristics get claimed imputed.

    The census works by self-classification, and in various federal government contexts classfications more or less follow census classifications (some states do this too for some purposes). Beginning with the 2000 decennial census persons can now classify themselves as belonging to more than one race, before that they couldn't.

    However, as a gay African-American law student e-mail interlocutor on a social democratic listserv taught me a number of years ago, race classification remains substantially a matter of state law & what is required/permitted on birth certificates, with rules and categories that often differ from those in the Census. The state of South Carolina defined him as Negro at birth and even if he now chooses some more complex identity under the census, for some state legal purposes in various states he doesn't get to choose -- and thus "one drop" rules and other "blood-quanta" rules survive (in a different way, I think it's 1/8 to be able to be eligible to enroll in a Native American "tribe," considered in its narrower sense as a legally-defined entity carrying certain exclusive statuses, rather than a national or ethnic community of identity).

    Identity is two-sided: how and with whom one identifies, and how and with whom others identify you. Same with meanings attributed or imputed to identities.

    It's all incohesive and incoherent and protean and unstable which is one reason it's so hard to talk about never mind reach agreement -- apart from disagreements about history in several senses of history.

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    I don't think that placing a statue or renaming a building is on the same scale as renaming a street. Part of the point of renaming a street is getting lots of people to use the name many times throughout their daily lives. How often do you say "Burnside" or "Marquam" versus "Portland Building" or name some statue? Streets and bridges are big.

    Again, one more time: Why not name the BRAND-NEW light-rail bridge over the Willamette for Chavez? It's appropriately prominent - and doesn't require renaming anything that already has a name.

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    As a non-Hispanic resident of SE 39th Avenue I would be proud to live on Cesar Chavez Avenue. One advantage of 39th Ave. is that there are not all that many commercial addresses on it and even fewer are small businesses with identities tied to the street.

    As a non-Hispanic resident of SE 39th Avenue too, I also would be proud to live on Cesar Chavez Avenue. (Gee, Chris, where on our street do you live? I'm just south of Hawthorne.)

    That said, there are plenty of small businesses on 39th. I can see four from my living room window.

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    Oh, and of course "Hispanic" covers Native American ancestry as well as African ancestry too, in the U.S. -- in Mexico the positive and negative politics around mestizaje make all of that much more complicated, though I was fascinated a number of years ago to learn that in early Spanish colonial days across the Spanish empire in the Americas "raza" meant "taint," in contrast to the pride claims of "La Raza" later tied to Mexican nationalism & now attacked in paranoid conspiracy theories in turn by some ethno-centric anti-immigrationists. But the taint of "raza" and indeed "blood" itself was not purely physical/biological in the sense most U.S. Americans now see "race." It related instead to honor and dishonor, and aspects of "dishonor" in the colonial context from a pro-Spanish point of view could have to do with sex and marriage and ancestry, but also matters of character like courage, loyalty, honesty, kindness and charity (and their opposites), and wealth and power. This made "race" a matter of reputation not only in terms of community beliefs about the "racial" identity of your ancestry, but how honorable your family was in other terms -- especially as colonialism wore on and there were "Spanish" families that had lived in the Americas permanently for generations.

    And, as in parts of the U.S. southeast and southwest, in other areas too tri-partite Native, African and European ancestry, as well as Native-African mixes, could be relatively common.

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    Kari Down by Holy Family church/school & Trinity Lutheran -- south of Woodstock almost to Johnson Creek.

    Didn't mean to say no small businesses or that it's not an issue at all. But comparatively -- I think to N. Interstate, but also to take your area, say compare to the effect of changing SE Hawthorne -- the business density along SE/NE 39th is just much less. Same compared to most of the E-W corridor streets I mentioned.

    If it's worth doing, is it worth paying some sort of compensation?

    To be stronger about it, I think your bridge idea actually is brilliant & second your comments about scale just above. Other related options -- new Sellwood Bridge, if ever it comes, or whatever changed improved (?) I-5 bridge -- which as interstate connecting two west coast migrant labor agricultural states and part of the national interstate highway system maybe speaks to the "national figure" aspect of Chavez too.

    Greetings from Boston btw.

  • Eric Berg (unverified)

    [Digression: I really need to copy edit before I post.]

    The City of Portland just released the master plan for a 25-acre park in the Cully neighborhood. Rather than naming it Thomas Cully Community Park, why not Cesar Chavez Community Park? It's new. I think it's the largest expansion of the park system in decades. It's in an increasing Latino area of the city.

    And closer to home...I live in an adjoining neighborhood.

    Master Plan

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    I do like the idea of naming the new bridge after Chavez. I think that helps with the issue of the costs to businesses and such. I also like how it helps to reflect some of the work that Chavez did.

  • judeqfe (unverified)

    I am not a Latino and I think Cesar Chavez was an incredible human being who changed the world for the better using non-violence.

    It's sad for me to read comments that imply that only Latino's would have an interest in naming a street after Chavez.

    sigh..we have a long way to go

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    I think Chris makes the original posters point well, that "hispanic is not a race" but an ethnicity.

    At the end of the day, what people want to claim seems to be an issue as well. Lot's of blacks are chuffed by Obama's election, but, for years, the logic that said, "white woman, white man, white child; white woman, black man, black child; black woman, black man, black child" was considered an example of the culture's racism. I'm 1/2 German and 1/2 English and call myself either, usually depending on the occasion and my mood. I agree, it would be insulting to hear, "No, you're a mick, I don't care if you're 1/2 German or not". So, by that logic Obama is white. He's also black. If you want to go to "ethnicity", I can't see that he's black at all. I live more "black" than he does. By that standard Bill Clinton already was the first black President. Name one thing about Obama's tastes or habits that is black, whatever that means, anyway.

    And speaking of Bubba and street names, you can only control the perception so much. How many think, or wil, in the future, that Clinton Street is where it is because it's just after all the Presidents? If anything was named for baby Bush on a last name only basis, who would know?

    As I'm always banging on about irresponsible software development practices in State gov., this provides a good, concrete example. The contractors that wrote a lot of the WIC software didn't bother to explore the concepts any more than one would naively looking at the post topic. Nor did their State overseers. Result: constant hang-ups in projects, constant, expensive rewriting of code to deal with the difference in ethnicity/race the way the Federal program defines it. I'm sorry, that is just dumb being managed by dumber. You (probably) don't write software for a living. Would you set off to write WIC software simply assuming that your common language conception of the two would be sufficient? The bottom line consequences are that they get more of your tax dollars by erring, so such considerations don't happen and having it mentioned is not welcome. They are not accountable to you in any way. Seriously, not one.

    Back to the post, at least this isn't nearly as bad as the debate in Dallas would be. No one is suggesting naming after living pols. The last major street debate I heard before the Industrial Ave one was when Plano, TX wanted to name the new loop George Herbert Walker Bush Expressway, while he was still in office and yet to run again! The only thing that prevented it was their inability to finish a project on time and Sr's inability to learn from Ronald Reagan. What do you expect from a city whose founder couldn't be bothered to find a Spanish dictionary or speaker and learn that the Spanish word for plain is "llano"? "No, Ah think it's somethin' like 'El Plano'". So there's a city named after someone's linguistic ignorance.

    Finally, I have a proposal. Street names should end with the street. PDX can be very, very frustrating to navigate for the way that any line on the same horizontal or vertical grid position is called the same thing, regardless of how disconnected it is. You'll see something like "3423 Schindler", which is fine and good and exists, but the block immediately West is the 2800 block and it never continues East. Until Troutdale where it picks up for another 3 blocks... Made up exmaples but you get the point. At least Portland doesn't do like Dallas and renumber every time you cross a suburban boundary. There must be 5 1000 N. Coit Rds. Except Gresham, of course, that had to do that with Main. Which raises the question, what is Metro's role? We're talking about the City Council all the time, but you'll be out at the edges of the Mt. Hood National Forest, cycling, and come by a sign that says "386th Avenue", which seems to be a continuation from right down at the river. Portland doesn't have any say there. Does Metro just choose to carry on the scheme so they don't have to deal with this?

  • sean cruz (unverified)

    Sheesh...Chris Lowe, you have your head so far up your ignorant ass....

    On a positive note, this string of comments motivated me to write a piece I'm quite happy about, titled:

    "What is a Chicano, and what does this have to do with Cesar Chavez?"

    Portland, Oregon—Sometimes, Portland strikes me as The Land that Time Forgot: isolated geographically from most of the nation, historically hostile to racial and ethnic minorities, and uniquely ignorant of the complexities that define and separate the panoply of Hispanic and Latino cultures and communities.

    Nothing has brought this last point to the fore so much as the efforts by the Committee-Once-Bent-on-Renaming-Interstate-Avenue to rename a street somewhere, anywhere in Portland after the great Mexican-American Chicano hero Cesar Chavez, without actually identifying him as such.

    The vast majority of Oregonians, it appears, cannot tell one from another, and for the most part can’t imagine that it makes a difference: Latino, Hispanic, Mexican-American, Chicano….

    The terms are most definitely NOT interchangeable

    read the rest of the piece after the jump here:

    and here:

  • Gary Weiss (unverified)

    I supported and worked for the UFW in the late 60s and early 70s because I was inspired by Chavez--he seemed to grasp that it was economic class and not race that had to be addressed. Don't soil his legacy by making his memory about race--he knew green was way more important than black, brown, or white--and he made his movement live up to that fact. Gary

  • rw (unverified)

    Zara, why does Chris have his head up his arse? I did not read anything in his disquisition on ethnic admixtures to call ignorant, racist or anything much.

    It was simply informational, much as sean's was informational...

  • rw (unverified)

    Whoops... got fingers and names "admixed". Gak.

    It's fun to watch het up trolls of all persuasions try to pick fights with merely informative posts. Sometimes makes me feel a tiny bit better about my own old pugilistic self!

  • sean cruz (unverified)

    Gary, remember Chavez in whatever way makes you feel good about yourself; that's all right.

    For Mexican-Americans, Chicanismo is a choice you make about yourself; an essential part of your identity. It's highly personal and it is no outsider's business.

    Cesar Chavez was Chicano to the bone; a non-violent Chicano; a leader who instilled "Brown Pride" in generations of Mexican Americans, who marched under the banners of La Raza.

    Up here in Portland, some people want to think that the struggle had/has nothing to do with race. Go figure....

  • rw (unverified)

    And now we bow to Sean b/c of the colour of his skin and nothing else. Exactly polar to what Sean says he does not want ruling his reality: skin colour.

    Sean, Gary is saying that BEYOND flesh and its colouration, there is an even more compelling stratifier used against EVERYONE of every colour: SES.

    Chavez got that. Even as he radicalized Chicanos to stand up proud and warm together and also reach out their hands, he also Got It that without dealing with SES and the survivalist grip economics has on the throats of all, keeping us who are "down here" fighting against each other for the crumbs... well, that no amount of "pride" could evolve into true "self respect" without dealing with the great levelers that connect all of us as mere Humans. Beyond race, colour, culture, ethnicity.

  • Scabbers (unverified)

    I grew up in Portland and am approaching the big five-0. I have a problem with re-naming in general. I still call the stadium the "Civic" and the performing arts center the "paramount." I am friends with traditional boat-owners who consider re-naming to be bad luck.

    The proposed street name change has ironies galore. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Chavez who was born in the USA, spent much of his career fighting against immigration! So although he deserves credit as a labor leader and supporter of rights for those already lawfully in this country, I don't understand why he is considered by some to be an immigrant hero. I think it would be great to drive down a street, go to a school, or cross a bridge named after Cesar Chavez, but I'm lukewarm on the idea of changing names without a strong consensus of those already living and working on the street.

    I am also sad that someone had to run-down Bill Naito. Yes, he was a businessman, but he was a supporter of Saturday Market, historic streetcars, and other Portland values. Maybe we could find a local person of Mexican and/or Latino descent who deserves honor and recognition.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Up here in Portland, some people want to think that the struggle had/has nothing to do with race. Go figure....

    You are getting it, aren't you, that it isn't one race, there are Chicanos of many races? Is that why you said Chris had his head up? Cesar Chavez was a Caucasian Chicano.

    He also qualifies as a Latino-American, based on the fact that his father moved to Arizona at age 9, where Cesar was born. Wanted to make sure this was right, so did a little genealogy on it.

    Nepomuseno Chavez b: ABT 1830 in Villa del Carmen, Chihuahua, Mexico married Juanita Herrera b: ABT 1835 in Mexico

    Cicario "Cesario" Chaves b: FEB 1854 in Villa del Carmen, Chihuahua Chihuahua, Mexico (naturalized US on move in 1890) married Dorotea Hernandez b: 6 FEB 1865 in Chihuahua, Chihuahua Mexico

    Librado Hernandez Chavez b: 17 AUG 1881 in Chihuahua, Mexico, d: 10/13/1982, Santa Clara, CA married Juana "Juannita" Estrada b: 24 JUN 1892 in Chihuahua, Mexico, d: 12/16/1991

    Cesar Estrada Chavez (March 31, 1927, Yuma, Arizona – April 23, 1993, CA)

    But since you want to teach us ignorants... Noticed Wikipedia has no entry for his mother Juana Estrada. Criminal that. How 'bout you start one; I would suggest CC's 1991 eulogy as a good start.

  • Deep Radixal (unverified)

    The Latino part is indisputable. His wife lives and was just voted Latina of the Year .

    I'm informed she has not made a public appearance since accepting the Freedom medal from Clinton on behalf of her husband. If you read Blue Oregon or have friends that can pass the message, please weigh in!

  • just a thought (unverified)

    I continue to believe that the most fair and expedient route is to rename SE Bush St. in honor of Cesar Chavez. It solves two problems!

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Per Sean Cruz' comments, most obviously, he could make his points without insulting Chris Lowe, whom I would nominate for Least Ignorant Blogger in a Leading Role. Second of all, the links he provided would not work for me on Wednesday night. Third, he is engaging in silly hyperbole in his descriptions of Portland, especially this: "uniquely ignorant of the complexities that define and separate the panoply of Hispanic and Latino cultures and communities." Geez Louise, I grew up in southern California in a town with a Spanish name and a (largely segregated) Mexican-American community, and few of us white folks knew much about Hispanic and Latino culture beyond the words we saw on Mexican-restaurant menus.

    Nuff sed about Sean Cruz' dyspeptic tirade.

    Back to Cesar Chavez, I would be interested if someone would point me at good biographical sources. I'm wondering how the trajectory of his activism compares to that of Martin Luther King Jr., who, as I hope we all know, connected the dots between oppression at home and oppression abroad in his condemnation of the US war in Vietnam.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    I was surprised how little was out there, but there is some. He was first inspired reading Ghandi, I know.

    And, BTW, street names aren't forever! From today's Manchester Guardian:

    As part of the same move to eradicate Francoist symbols, the Canary Island city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife today changed the name of one of its main streets from Rambla General Franco to Rambla de Santa Cruz. Other streets named after Francoist generals were also changed.

  • judeqfe (unverified)


    A few points. One is that there seems to be some confusion regarding immigrants here. We are all immigrants unless we are native peoples. Not all immigrants are here illegally. Chavez's issues with illegal immigration need to be understood in context of the times. The agribusinesses were going to Mexico to bring in truckloads of scab workers to break the farmworkers strike.

    Here is a bio from the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation website: Cesar Estrada Chavez, Senator Robert F. Kennedy noted, was "one of the heroic figures of our time.."

    italic A true American hero, Cesar was a civil rights, Latino, farm worker, and labor leader; a religious and spiritual figure; a community servant and social entrepreneur; a crusader for nonviolent social change; and an environmentalist and consumer advocate.

    A second-generation American, Cesar was born on March 31, 1927, near his family's farm in Yuma, Arizona. At age 10, his family became migrant farm workers after losing their farm in the Great Depression. Throughout his youth and into his adulthood, Cesar migrated across the southwest laboring in the fields and vineyards, where he was exposed to the hardships and injustices of farm worker life.

    After achieving only an eighth-grade education, Cesar left school to work in the fields full-time to support his family. He attended more than 30 elementary and middle schools. Although his formal education ended then, he possessed an insatiable intellectual curiosity, and was self-taught in many fields and well read throughout his life.

    Cesar joined the US Navy in 1946, and served in the Western Pacific in the aftermath of World War II. He returned from service to marry Helen Fabela, whom he had met working in the vineyards of central California. The Chavez family settled in the East San Jose barrio of Sal Si Puedes (get out if you can), and would eventually have eight children and thirty-one grandchildren.

    Cesar's life as a community organizer began in 1952 when he joined the Community Service Organization (CSO), a prominent Latino civil rights group. While with the CSO, Cesar coordinated voter registration drives and conducted campaigns against racial and economic discrimination primarily in urban areas. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Cesar served as CSO's national director.

    Cesar's dream, however, was to create an organization to protect and serve farm workers, whose poverty and disenfranchisement he had shared. In 1962, Cesar resigned from the CSO, leaving the security of a regular paycheck to found the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.

    For more than three decades Cesar led the first successful farm workers union in American history, achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits, and humane living conditions, as well as countless other rights and protections for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. Against previously insurmountable odds, he led successful strikes and boycotts that resulted in the first industry-wide labor contracts in the history of American agriculture. His union's efforts brought about the passage of the groundbreaking 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act to protect farm workers. Today, it remains the only law in the nation that protects the farm workers' right to unionize.

    The significance and impact of Cesar's life transcends any one cause or struggle. He was a unique and humble leader, in addition to being a great humanitarian and communicator who influenced and inspired millions of Americans to seek social justice and civil rights for the poor and disenfranchised in our society. Cesar forged a diverse and extraordinary national coalition of students, middle class consumers, trade unionists, religious groups, and minorities.

    A strong believer in the principles of nonviolence practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar effectively employed peaceful tactics such as fasts, boycotts, strikes, and pilgrimages. In 1968 he fasted for 25 days to affirm his personal commitment and that of the farm labor movement to non-violence. He fasted again for 25 days in 1972, and in 1988, at the age of 61, he endured a 36-day "Fast for Life" to highlight the harmful impact of pesticides on farm workers and their children.

    Cesar passed away in his sleep on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, Arizona, only miles from his birthplace of 66 years earlier. More than 50,000 people attended his funeral services in the small town of Delano, California, the same community in which he had planted his seed for social justice only decades before.

    Cesar's life cannot be measured in material terms. He never earned more than $6,000 a year. He never owned a house. When Cesar passed, he had no savings to leave to his family.

    His motto in life-"si se puede" (it can be done)-embodies the uncommon and invaluable legacy he left for the world's benefit. Since his death, dozens of communities across the nation have renamed schools, parks, streets, libraries, other public facilities, awards and scholarships in his honor, as well as enacting holidays on his birthday, March 31. In 1994 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in America.

    Cesar Chavez-a common man with an uncommon vision for humankind-stood for equality, justice, and dignity for all Americans. His ecumenical principles remain relevant and inspiring today for all people.

    In 1993, his family and friends established the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation to educate people about the life and work of this great American civil rights leader, and to engage all, particularly youth, to carry on his values and timeless vision for a better world.

  • (Show?)

    We are all immigrants unless we are native peoples

    Can we please dispense with this line? The descendants of those who were brought here forcibly as slaves don't appreciate being referred to as immigrants.

  • Joe Smith (unverified)
    <h2>I'd really like to see a park. A big one, especially one where people of all age go to relax, renew, and refresh. With not just a plaque, but the kind of story display one sees at a good national park, with pictures, perhaps some audio, and maybe even video. Also one where events are often held that get lots of publicity, so lots of folks read or heard frequent references to "Cesar Chavez Park." One possibility: who the heck was "Delta?"</h2>

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