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Monument Will Not Be Ready for Chavez March

City of San Fernando had hoped to unveil a tribute to the labor leader at Sunday event.

March 27, 2004|Stephanie Stassel | Times Staff Writer

The thousands of people expected to march Sunday in San Fernando to honor Cesar Chavez will pass a newly landscaped plot of land that soon will contain a memorial to the farm labor leader.

Because San Fernando was the first U.S. city to establish an official holiday to honor Chavez, city leaders and residents are understandably eager to see the project completed.

Many in this largely Latino city had hoped the Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Transit Plaza would be finished in time to mark the 77th anniversary of Chavez's birth. But while much of the construction work is finished, the statue, fountain and murals planned for the site won't likely be ready until sometime in June.

On Sunday, the city will commemorate Chavez and his causes with its annual Marcha de Justicia, beginning at noon with speeches at Brand Park in Mission Hills. At 1 p.m., participants will walk from Brand Park to San Fernando's Recreation Park.

"We had hoped we could unveil [the memorial] around the same time to add more momentum to the march," said Ruben Rodriguez, chairman of the Friends of the Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Art Project Committee, which has raised $97,000 for the project.

"We would like it done as soon as possible, but as perfect as possible."

Glendale artist Ignacio Gomez is designing the 23,000-square-foot memorial at Truman and Wolfskill streets, in the southeast portion of the city. It will include a 6-foot bronze statue of Chavez with 10 metal figurines representing the 10,000 people who joined his 1966 protest walk from Delano to Sacramento.

There will also be a 6-foot by 12-foot tile fountain in the shape of the United Farm Workers eagle, with water flowing from its wings.

One side of the fountain will feature a prayer written by Chavez; on the other will be an image of a farm worker with his family, holding books, to symbolize Chavez's belief in higher education.

And two 50-foot-long murals will present a chronology of the life of Chavez, who was 66 when he died in 1993.

The $245,000 project is being funded by a $155,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and by private donations.

Artist Gomez, 62, said he first met Chavez in 1978. Because the memorial project was close to his heart, Gomez said he worked and worked to be sure he captured the right image.

"I had him a certain way, but I wasn't too happy with it," he said. "One night, I changed everything and I'm glad I did. He's more heroic and has a presence. This is more dynamic."

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