Driving into the Tehachapi Mountains, the harsh terrain drew us in as we entered the protected valley. Rugged peaks quickly turned to a beautiful awe as we approached our destination-the National Chavez Center, La Paz.
Already anticipating seeing the home and memorial of the great humanitarian and activist Cesar Chavez, we quickly realized that we were heading in a direction of great vision and insight in the minds of two of the greatest humanitarians in the world today.
Traveling with two other journalists, we headed to La Paz to cover a portion of March Migrante VII, an annual event held by the Border Angels and its founder, Enrique Morones. Morones has devoted his life to humane immigration reform and bringing awareness to the thousands of immigrants that die in their pursuit to find a better life.
This year’s theme was “Walking with Cesar,” with the migrating group of marchers hitting pivotal places that shaped the course of Cesar Chavez’ movement in creating awareness to the struggles of migrant farm workers. La Paz was just one stop in its 10-day journey that took them from the American/Mexican border to the state capitol in Sacramento and back.
On assignment for The Sun newspaper at Southwestern College, Chula Vista, California, we fully expected to get there, get the story and return home as quickly as possible the next day. All that changed as soon as we arrived and saw the beauty of La Paz.
With me on this adventure were Serina Duarte and Omar Villalpando. Serina and I have been “partners in crime” for a couple of years, often working together on projects and assignments. Omar, new to The Sun staff, volunteered to go along. We quickly gained a trio of friendship on our ride up there and what we experienced together created even a stronger bond.
We arrived earlier than the marchers did and as we stepped out of the car and headed into the heart of the Chavez Center. The grounds and surrounding mountains were spectacular as we spread out taking pictures of everything we saw. Some of it was for practice, but we all wanted to capture the spirit of La Paz. It had already hit us heavy and drew inspiration from everything we saw. We were anxious for Morones and his travelers to join us, and after about an hour, they started trickling in. Many came in the caravan from Los Angeles and others joined the group at La Paz.
Although we were not “scheduled” to meet with him until the next morning, we were ecstatic when Paul Chavez, son of Cesar and president of the National Chavez Center joined us. He spent the afternoon with us, rejoined us at breakfast and stayed until we all left mid afternoon the next day. He opened his arms, his heart and his home to all of us there and after meeting with Paul, I only wish I could have met his father.
Every piece of La Paz has a story behind it and a future ahead of it. In spending time with Paul Chavez, he shared the heart and soul of his father’s cause, the history of the National Cesar Chavez Center and his own visionary plans for its future.
Spending the night with Enrique Morones, members of the Border Angels and people from California, Texas, Guatemala and Mexico was a cultural education and everyone treated us from the beginning as part of the family, not as reporters looking from the outside in.
The slideshow is only a glimpse of the beauty that lies within La Paz.
They say a reporter should never be part of the story, but I think that it is safe to say, good or bad, the story becomes a part of the journalist.