Cesar Chavez died on April 23, 1993, and within a month a committee was formed to find ways to honor the legacy of the civil-rights icon and farm-labor leader.
Among those plans was a resolution renaming a section of Fresno streets in honor of Chavez.
It took 30 years, but members of that committee joined in a community celebration on Saturday to unveil streets signs for the new Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
“Persistence is important,” said Venancio Gaona, who lead that original committee and was one of the hundreds on hand Saturday morning at the Fresno Fairgrounds for the unveiling, which included a folkloric dance performance and Mariachi and taco trucks such as El Premio Mayor.
“He meant a lot to us and he still means a lot to us.”
Fresno’s City Council actually voted to rename a nine-mile stretch of Kings Canyon Road and Ventura Avenue in 1993, only to reverse itself months later due to community outrage over effects to businesses and lack of community engagement in the process.
That decision led thousands to march in the streets and became a key political issue for anyone wanting to represent southeast Fresno.
When the City Council took up the cause again this March, it proposed renaming a 10.25-mile stretch of Kings Canyon Road, Ventura Street and California Avenue to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. The proposal was again met with criticism from some residents, but passed 6-1.
The name change will affect Kings Canyon Road from Temperance Avenue on the east to Cedar Avenue; Ventura Avenue and Ventura Street through downtown Fresno between Cedar Avenue and Temperance and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard; and California Avenue in southwest Fresno from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Marks Avenue.
Areas of the streets that are in Fresno County islands are not affected.
The city of Fresno and Caltrans are working to expedite the change and people should begin seeing the street signs later this year, said Fresno Councilmember Miguel Arias, who called Saturday’s celebration a reminder of Chavez’ advocacy and legacy, especially for the elders in the community who fought for the name change.
“Their efforts were not in vain.”
This particular stretch of Fresno streets was chosen for a reason, Gaona said.
It’s where Chavez and those in the movement marched and held rallies and boycotts. And though it took 30 years, Gaona said he knew the day would eventually come.
“One has to have faith in one’s self and the community,” he said.
“We never gave up hope.”