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Government & Politics

Here And Gone: Fight Over Fresno's Cesar Chavez Boulevard Remains Fresh, 20 Years Later

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Cesar Chavez Foundation
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In October 1993, the Fresno City Council voted to rename three city streets - Kings Canyon, Ventura and California - in honor of the late farm labor activist Cesar Chavez. The move was part of a campaign by local Latino groups who sought to honor the UFW founder, who had died earlier that year. 

But if you look on a map or a GPS device today, you won't find them. Nor will you find a street sign bearing Chavez's name. That's because less than two months after voting to name the streets for Chavez, the council reversed course, and restored the original street names after a bitter fight that divided the community. 

Over the following two decades, dozens of cities and states have gone on to name streets, parks, public buildings, libraries and schools for Chavez.  In fact, Fresno's adult school now bears his name. But the naming and un-naming of Cesar Chavez Boulevard remains a sore point for many, over 20 years later. 

We spoke with one of the men who helped lead the street naming effort, Venancio Gaona, who was the chairman of the local Cesar Chavez Committee and was with the group El Concilio de Fresno. He says while some things have changed, and appreciation of Chavez as a civil rights hero has become more widespread, the issue still remains controversial.  And he says the effort to honor Chavez with a street in Fresno is not over. 

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