Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The naming of a Navy ship after Cesar Chavez draws political fire

A UC San Diego mural honoring Chicano history and Chavez, April 2010
A UC San Diego mural honoring Chicano history and Chavez, April 2010
Photo by jay galvin/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Multi-American's sister blog Home Post at KPBS in San Diego, which reports on the military, has posted a piece on the controversy over the naming of a U.S. Navy ship after the late labor leader Cesar Chavez. From the post:

The United States Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, is headed to San Diego tomorrow to announce that a ship will be named after labor leader Cesar Chavez. General Dynamics NASSCO spokesman James Gill told the Associated Press it’s a way to pay homage to the Latino workers who built the dry cargo ship, and the neighborhood (Barrio Logan) General Dynamics calls home.

But Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. of East San Diego County, a Republican whose retired congressman father was a driving force behind construction of the border fence, is complaining about the decision. From his press statement:
“This decision shows the direction the Navy is heading. Naming a ship after Cesar Chavez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navy’s history and tradition.”

Cesar Chavez was in the military, serving two years in the Navy after he enlisted in 1946. Hunter, who served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, has suggested that the ship might instead be named after a Latino military hero like Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta.

The naming of the ship is to be officially announced today. Home Post has featured a few readers' comments.

What do you think? Is naming a ship after Chavez a good way to honor Latino shipbuilders? Does Hunter have a valid complaint?