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Obama to designate Cesar Chavez home in San Joaquin Valley a national monument

Chavez Monument

Courtesy Cesar Chavez Foundation

A fountain at the home of Cesar Chavez in Keene, CA.

The California home of labor leader Cesar Chavez in the San Joaquin Valley will become a national monument.

The White House said Monday that Obama will establish the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, California during a campaign swing through the state next week. The property is known as La Paz, short for Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, or Our Lady Queen of Peace.

Some are calling it a move likely to shore up support from Hispanic and progressive voters just five weeks before the election.

The site served as national headquarters of the United Farm Workers union, as well as Chavez's home, from the early 1970s until his death in 1993. Chavez is buried there; his gravesite will be part of the monument.

Obama said in a statement that Chavez "gave a voice to poor and disenfranchised workers everywhere," adding that La Paz was at the center of significant civil rights events. By designating his home as a national monument, "Chávez' legacy will be preserved and shared to inspire generations to come."

As head of the UFW, Chavez staged a massive grape boycott that raised awareness of the plight of predominantly Latino farmworkers. His efforts were credited with inspiring millions of other Latinos in their fight for more educational opportunities, better housing and more political power.

Creation of a national monument at La Paz follows designation of the site in the San Joaquin Valley near Bakersfield as a national historic site. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the site's designation on the National Register of Historic Places last year.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Chavez's founding of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the UFW.

The Chavez monument will be the fourth national monument designated by Obama using the Antiquities Act. He previously designated Virginia's Fort Monroe, California's Fort Ord and Colorado's Chimney Rock as national monuments.

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