Cesar Chavez, the Catholic Bishops, and the Farmworkers' Struggle for Social Justice

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Available in paperback September 2008!

César Chávez and the farmworkers’ struggle for justice polarized the Catholic community in California’s Central Valley during the 1965–1970 Delano Grape Strike. Because most farmworkers and landowners were Catholic, the American Catholic Church was placed in the challenging position of choosing sides in an intrafaith conflict. Twice Chávez petitioned the Catholic Church for help. Finally, in 1969 the American Catholic hierarchy responded by creating the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Farm Labor. This committee of five bishops and two priests traveled California’s Central Valley and mediated a settlement in the five-year conflict. Within months, a new and more difficult struggle began in California’s lettuce fields. This time the Catholic Church drew on its long-standing tradition of social teaching and shifted its policy from neutrality to outright support for César Chávez and his union, the United Farmworkers (UFW). The Bishops’ Committee became so instrumental in the UFW’s success that Chávez declared its intervention “the single most important thing that has helped us.” Drawing upon rich, untapped archival sources at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Marco Prouty exposes the American Catholic hierarchy’s internal, and often confidential, deliberations during the California farm labor crisis of the 1960s and 1970s. He traces the Church’s gradual transition from reluctant mediator to outright supporter of Chávez, providing an intimate view of the Church’s decision-making process and Chávez’s steadfast struggle to win rights for farmworkers. This lucid, solidly researched text will be an invaluable addition to the fields of labor history, social justice, ethnic studies, and religious history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Provides extensive research regarding the relationship of Chavez’s movement to the Catholic Church.”—Hispanic Link Weekly Report
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816527311
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 9/25/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Marco Prouty is a career foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State. He has served as a vice-consul in the Dominican Republic and as a desk officer for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, and is presently assigned to Belize as chief of the embassy's Political and Economic Section.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xi List of Abbreviations xiii Introduction 3
1 Roots of the Conflict 7 The Farmworker in California 7 George G. Higgins and the Farmworkers 12 The Rise of Cesar E. Chavez 22
2 Chavez and the Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee 31 Catholic Growers, Catholic Farmworkers 31
1968: Chavez's First Appeal 48
1969: Creation of the Ad Hoc Committee 51
1970: Triumph and Defeat 58
3 Hasta La Victoria, Onward to Victory 67
1970-1971: The Teamsters' Betrayal 67
1972: The Politics of La Causa 81
1973: "Biased" at Last 88
1974: Chavez and the Pope 106
1975: Jerry Brown, the CALRA, and the UFW 111
1976 and Beyond: The Beginning of the End 123 Epilogue 133 La Causa's Self-Destruction 133 Why Los Curas Left La Causa 139 Notes 147 Bibliography 177 Index 181
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