Cesar Chavez’s Easter

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Yesterday, the Sunday when about 2 billions of Christians around the world celebrated Easter, Google made the controversial choice of creating a “doodle” to honor the Latino workers’ rights activist Cesar Chavez.

Unsurprisingly, polemics broke out immediately, and were noticed even by Italian newspapers and websites, despite the fact that Chavez is almost unknown in Europe and, because of this, Google had maintained the ordinary page in mine and other non-American countries.

 

As it has been stressed by Stephen A. Nuño, the protests have not that much to do with religion.

Google, of course, has a pragmatic secular market strategy and tries to please all its multicultural clients with equal discretion.

 

I made some quick researches, and the most religious “doodles” I could find are those exhibited for Christmas and for Thanksgving Day, but they only display a turkey and some childish toys. Last time they celebrated Easter, they did it through adding some eggs to the Google logo: OK, they are Christian symbols of Resurrection from a torpid body, but who would say chocolate eggs are religious?

In general, I have the slight perception that Google is simply trying to tantalize the web-surfers’ (and generally human) sensitivity to celebrations without committing to a particular set of beliefs and so loosing appeal to all the others.

A difficult balance that is searched for by the vast majority of economic enterprises.

 

Why the silence on Easter this year has been so unpalatable to many bloggers? Well, probably the fact is that Chavez is (improperly) nicknamed a “socialist”, as a matter of fact was a union founder and leader, and of course represents a Hispanic cultural heritage that some folks would gladly avoid mingling with their concept of “American”. Furthermore, Chavez seems to be the inventor of the watchword “Yes, we can”, or more correctly “Sì, se puede”, that as everybody knows was wielded by Democrats during Obama’s presidential campaign. Two years ago the White House also proclaimed a Cesar Chavez Day that is even observed as a national holiday in Texas, California and Colorado, and this latter information strengthens the understanding, if it was needed, that the problem is outright political, maybe cultural, and truly not religious in a strict sense.

 

Trying to overcome my personal ignorance about their story, I discovered that one of the clearest features of Chavez’s struggles was a religious commitment. He hired the icon of the VIRGEN DE LA GUADALUPE as a symbol of Latinos’ enfranchisement and during his fasts, surrounded by pictures of saints and political activists who inspired him (mostly religious, like Gandhi or MLK), he accepted as only food the Holy Communion.

A Catholic website that you can deem everything but “progressive” molded a (literally) passionate portrait of the union leader more than a year ago, and recalled his “orthodoxy” together with his ability to speak to the man of the street.

The most striking detail thinking about the Google-doodle issue is that Chavez organized a memorable pilgrimage to Sacramento so that it culminated on the festivity day of Easter.

 

All the theoretical background of Chavez, a pragmatic and active player but not a man of thoughtless temper, as his systematic non-violent strategy shows, drew from the social teachings of Leo XIII and Pius XI. These popes insisted in condemning modern nationalism and racism before and while they became so dramatically powerful to lead Europe in the disasters of WW I-II, and they advocated for a “social economy” that recognizes private property as a “natural (divine) right”, but at the same time subordinated it to the right to a decent life and to the common property of creation by all humanity.

That is to say: it is not a sin to be rich, but only if there is none of your brothers starving because of your disproportionate wealth (see for example how Caritas in Veritate 27 recalls Luke 16, 19-31). In this latter case, greed can be a cause of earthly (and even eternal) condemnation.

Chavez was able to embody these principles and at the same time to reach out to all the communities of “people of good will”, independently from their particular beliefs.

 

In conclusion, he is in my eye a model of how a man can remain loyal to his deepest identity and become a valuable member of a larger society, from the United States on to the whole world, in a similar way to Martin Luther King, that Chavez openly admired. They deserve a place between the sons America can be proud of and that contributed to shape its contemporary identity, no matter what the advocates of “whiteness” would say.

 

So kudos to Cesar Chavez, and happy Easter!    

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