Best of Chávez

The goal of both the film and the music the band plays is to demonstrate how perseverance, coupled with artistic inspiration, can lead to social change.

You get both: A film screening plus a live music performance is coming to Sunset Center in Carmel, as well as a display of artworks and memorabilia from the United Farm Workers movement that American civil rights activist César Chávez (1927-1993) created. Both the documentary, A Song for Cesar (2022), and the performance by The Song for Cesar Band, led by guitarist Abel Sanchez, celebrate “the man and the movement” he was the face of.

A Song for Cesar is a story of the life and legacy of Chávez and the farmworker movement through interviews, performances, archival footage and an original soundtrack. In fact, it all started with a song.

In 2006, Abel Sanchez and Jorge Santana (1951-2020) wrote “A Song for Cesar” as a tribute to Chávez and the United Farm Workers union, its farmworkers and their families. They then set the song to a short video infused with images of musicians and artists working side-by-side with Chávez to give voice to farmworkers. Upon viewing the video, poet Maya Angelou told Sanchez that the video should become a full documentary. Sanchez and his partner Andres Alegria then began creating the film – a 15-year labor of love.

Another offspring of the song was The Song for Cesar Band, a Latin soul group that performs at times as an acoustic ensemble, and other times as a full-on 12-piece band. The hope is that both the film and the music will serve to educate generations old and new about Chávez’s legacy.

Born in Arizona, Chávez moved to California as a young man and started registering laborers to vote. In the 1960s, he began organizing strikes among farmworkers, most notably the successful Delano grape strike of 1965-1970. In 1970, the migrant workers won their fight for better pay.

Along with activist Dolores Huerta, Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the UFW. Ideologically, he combined leftist politics with Catholic social teachings. Throughout his life, Chávez kept working against unfair labor rules. In 2000 the state of California designated March 31 as César Chávez Day; the federal government joined in 2014. A national monument was designated in 2012.

A SONG FOR CESAR and THE SONG FOR CESAR BAND by Abel Sanchez 6:30pm Friday, March 31. Sunset Center, San Carlos Street at 9th Avenue, Carmel. $25-$49. 620-2048,

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