As America’s new president Joe Biden sat at his new desk in the White House’s Oval Office signing a slew of executive orders on his very first day in office, Latinos all over the country took notice of something very special in the background. Directly behind the president’s desk, surrounded by photos of his family, was a bronze bust of Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, who worked tirelessly in the effort to secure rights for migrant farmworkers, who mainly come from Latin America, specifically Mexico.
The bust was sent from the Cesar Chavez National Monument in La Paz, Calif. at the request of the White House, and it is the first time the bust has ever been displayed at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation,” Paul Chavez, Cesar’s son, who is also the president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, said in a statement. “That isn’t just because it honors my dad, but more importantly because it represents faith and empowerment for an entire people on whose behalf he fought and sacrificed.”
But Biden didn’t stop there, he hired Cesar’s granddaughter Julie Chavez Rodriguez as the White House director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations. “I’m very excited and honored that it’s something he chose as a symbol in his office,” Julie told NBC News. “It’s an honor and a real tribute to the community.”
The reaction on the Internet and social media in particular was even more exuberant. “I literally jumped out of my chair and yelled: ‘That’s Cesar Chavez! Cesar Chavez!,” David Morin, the president of Latino advocacy group Forward Latino told NBC. The group also sent out multiple tweets about the meaningful décor item. “When I think of everything our community has been through these last four years, there can be no stronger message of empathy and on the importance of our community moving forward,” Morin said.
Seeing the bust which was designed by Paul Suarez 25 years ago, is of course a welcome sign of President Biden’s intentions for the Latinx community who faced particularly difficult challenges throughout the Trump administration including immigration hold up, federally mandated pay cuts and wage freezes for farmworkers and a disproportionate number of both COVID-19 cases and deaths. When asked about the bust activist Dolores Huerta who worked with Chavez said, “I think it’s exciting he did that. It’s like a reverence to farmworkers, and to do that in front of the Cesar bust shows his sincerity he has, especially when it comes to workers. Biden’s commitment to workers is very strong.”
Echoing the sentiments of many, “As a child of an immigrant this image fills my ❤️ with immense joy,” Instagram user @dianaschmedeman captioned a photo of President Biden working in front of the Cesar Chavez bust.