In commemoration of what would have been Cesar E. Chavez’s 88th birthday, Rep. Maxine Water (D-Los Angeles) was joined March 27 by Margaret Salazar-Porzio, curator of Latino history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, for a brief ceremony at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
The ceremony acknowledged the donation of what may be the final formal portrait of the renowned civil rights activist and beloved labor leader to the Smithsonian by Gardena photographer Gary Miyatake.
This acceptance into the nation’s collections of this special image of Chavez is the latest in a series of works, including thousands of objects, photographs and artworks offered each year, to catalog both prominent figures and ordinary Americans who have made extraordinary contributions to both national and world history.
The photograph of Chavez was taken in 1993 by Miyatake — grandson of the iconic Little Tokyo photographer Toyo Miyatake, who also documented life in the Manzanar concentration camp — at the 30th anniversary celebration of the United Farm Workers Union, approximately one month before Chavez’s passing.
Waters, Salazar-Porzio and Miyatake were joined by Paul F. Chavez, Cesar Chavez’s son and president/chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation; Christine Chavez, Cesar Chavez’s granddaughter, farmworker coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Cesar Chavez Foundation board member; students from Cesar Chavez Elementary School in El Sereno; and community leaders and activists from the Latino and Asian American communities, including actor Edward James Olmos.