One of the country’s newer national parks, the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument pays tribute to the Latino leader whose struggle for the rights of immigrant farm workers led to labor laws that now protect agricultural workers across the United States. The national monument is the final resting place of Chavez and his last home. The park is a good day-trip destination from Los Angeles, easily reachable in under two hours by freeway.
I enjoy our more majestic national parks, filled with mountains and wilderness, but I also enjoy visiting those that are more about the message than the physical site. I think the Chavez National Monument is one such site.
What to Do
Set in the rural agricultural community in which Chavez worked, this national park is an educational experience. The site is also home to the current headquarters of several farm worker movement organizations, so it’s really a living museum. There is a visitor center with changing presentations and exhibits about Chavez and the movement and a memorial garden where Chavez is buried. It’s especially meaningful to drive through the farms of the area on the way and see the farm workers working in the fields, the very workers Chavez worked so hard to gain rights for. California produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables and a has a huge migrant worker population that picks and processes all that produce.
Cesar E. Chavez
Cesar E. Chavez, a first-generation American born in Arizona to Mexican immigrant parents, became a migrant farm worker as a teenager, moving around to follow work harvesting various crops. Chavez experienced first-hand the mistreatment and lack of rights of this immigrant population. After serving in World War II and getting an education, he returned to do something about it. He led the movement to allow farm workers to organize into unions and was a public leader in the fight for worker and civil rights.
The Cesar E. Chavez National Monument is in Keene, California (29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Road), about 30 miles south of Bakersfield and about two hours north of Los Angeles. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except for federal holidays. There is no admission charge.
Where to Eat Lunch
Any great day-trip experience needs a great lunch spot, and Primo Burgers in Mojave, California (16862 State Highway 14), never disappoints. Don’t be fooled by the exterior — the food is great, the service is fast, and it’s a bargain. They serve breakfast all day, and the menu is heavy on typical diner fare, but everything is well-made with fresh ingredients. My favorite is the pastrami sandwich, which I always pair with a chocolate malt, made with real ice cream right in front of me.