YUMA, Ariz. -- On Monday, President Barack Obama designated the Cesar Chavez home in Keene, Calif. as a national monument. The labor and civil rights leader was born in Yuma County, Ariz.
The farm town of San Luis, just south of Yuma, remembers Cesar Chavez well -- with schools, streets and a cultural center named after him.
Marco Antonio Reyes is now Yuma County Supervisor. When Chavez died in San Luis in 1993, he was the city’s mayor. He said Chavez was instrumental in improving conditions for all farm workers, not just Mexican-Americans.
"In the fields for example, before, they had no bathroom facilities, no shade, no breaks. It was a lot tougher and rougher," Reyes said.
It wasn’t until his death that Reyes understood the significance of Chavez’ life.
"You had all these people calling you and you start to realize just how important he was to that movement and how well-known he was throughout the world," Reyes said.
There’s been criticism of Obama’s move, saying he’s just after the Latino vote. But Reyes and others here believe Chavez is well deserving of the new national monument.
Hector Sanchez worked with Chavez at the United Farm Workers union in Southern California. Sanchez said union presidents serve a limited term, but Cesar Chavez spent his whole life helping his people.
"To me he was, from our race, the biggest hero that could have been," Sanchez said in Spanish.