The U.S. Navy has christened its newest cargo-ammunition ship for civil rights leader and labor activist Cesar Chavez, who served in the Navy during World War II.
The Naval ship dedication brings some extra pride to Kern County because the late Cesar Chavez lived in Delano for some time.
This past weekend's ceremony was held in San Diego. The ship is the first U.S. naval ship named after a Mexican-American.
Some Hispanics and non-Hispanics locally say it is an excellent way to commemorate the life and legacy of Chavez. who died 19 years ago.
Last weekend, on Cinco de Mayo, the Navy's newest ship was christened in his honor.
His son Paul Chavez was at the dedication.
“We all thought it was important that this ship be named and that this christening be done on behalf of generations of Latinos who have served this country and have always been there to answer the call of duty," said Chavez.
All 80 members of Chavez's family were onboard the ship, including all six of his children and his widow.
Local defense attorney David Torres attended Saturday's dedication. He says it had special significance for him, because he had the opportunity to meet Chavez while he was still alive.
“The significance this has to Kern County, the United Farm Workers is a national movement, internationally renowned, and Cesar was looked upon up there with Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Torres.
This has a large significance locally since the United Farm Workers headquarters, co-founded by Cesar Chavez is in Keene, California.
At nearly 700-feet-long, the ship's primary mission is to deliver 10,000 tons of food, ammunition, fuel, and other goods to combat ships at sea.
Jorge Duran is a student at Cal State Bakersfield and he is also a Navy reserve. He is proud the ship is named after Chavez. Duran says, “I am currently part of the Navy reserve, I think it's great, this country is recognizing great individuals, his movements changed many things for farm laborers.”
When Chavez was alive he founded a group that advocates the rights of farm workers, acting to increase wages and improve the working conditions and safety of farm workers.
Another one of Chavez's significant accomplishments was the 1968 five-year grape boycott, which insured better paying and working conditions for farm workers.