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A Family’s History of Activism

Our Founder, Maria Isabel, was inspired to organize our local youth & start The Young American Dreamers after hearing her father retell of his “union days” alongside Cesar Chavez & the United Farm Workers. 

Hilario joined the UFW after being approached by its organizers in an Auburndale orange grove the autumn of 1970. He was quickly elected Steward by his fellow crew members shortly after. He began organizing citrus pickers as many of them voted to join the UFW in hopes of gaining union benefits, enforcing labor rights, & ensuring farm worker protections.
By 1975, Hilario had been elected President of The Ranch Committee & President of the Local UFW in Winter Haven in representation of the seven local crews that worked for Minute Maid, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola. His passion for human rights & farm worker dignity pushed him to delegate with Coca-Cola & Minute Maid citrus growers to ensure fair working conditions, living wages, & decent living quarters for all 7 crews in his district. During this time, his wife Maria became the State Director for the UFW’s medical benefits plan & his brother Valentin was the director of the UFW’s Apopka office. Valentin was also entrusted to become the security detail coordinator for Cesar whenever he was present in Florida.


Hilario continued being an organizer for the UFW right up until 1981, when his wife & he joined Sister Pearl McGivney to found The Farmworkers Ministry, Inc in Winter Haven. The Farmworker Ministry, better known locally in Spanish as El Centro Campesino, is now located in Auburndale.    

Since the passing of his daughter in 2012, Hilario has worked to formalize YAD into an official non-profit organization & now serves as its Board Chairman.

Left to Right  Giev Kashkooli - UFW Vice President   Hilario Barajas - YAD Board Chair  Arturo Rodriguez - UFW President   Daniel Barajas - YAD Executive Director   At YAD Headquarters in Auburndale, FL on November 2nd, 2016

Pictured Left to Right: Giev Kashkooli - UFW Vice President, Hilario Barajas - YAD Board Chair, Arturo Rodriguez - UFW President , Daniel Barajas - YAD Executive Director. (At YAD Headquarters in Auburndale, FL on November 2nd, 2016)

A Legacy Continued...

At the young age of 10, our founder Maria Isabel, read about the injustices being done to tomato workers & decided to stand with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as they began their plight for the Fair Food Program. She organized her family as the boycott against Taco Bell began. 


Maria Isabel recognized from a young age the importance of how farm workers were treated because she grew up as a migrant farm worker herself. She followed the crops along side her family as they picked the orange groves of Florida, tobacco fields of North Carolina, and apple orchards of Michigan. 

The Young American Dreamers now proudly continue her mission of defending farm worker rights. YAD is currently in support of the CIW’s boycott of Publix & Wendy’s. In the Central Florida area, YAD is also allied with the Farm Workers Association of Florida, Farmworkers Self-Help, & the Farmworkers Ministry. We understand the need to stand against modern day slavery, worker exploitation, & exposure to pesticides. 

Our Cesar Chavez Day Resolution

The Young American Dreamers
In Collaboration With: The Farm Worker Association of Florida | Farmworkers Self-Help | Farmworkers Ministry

Present: A Resolution To Recognize March 31 As:
César Chávez Day

In The State Of Florida

WHEREAS, César Estrada Chávez was born on March 31, 1927, near Yuma, Arizona; and

WHEREAS, at the age of 10, César began laboring in fields after his family lost their farm during the Great Depression; and after achieving an eighth grade education, left school to work full time as a farm worker to help support his family; and

WHEREAS, at the age of 17, César joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific; and

WHEREAS, in 1962, César co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America which organized migrant farm workers to fight for fair wages, safe working conditions, health coverage, pension benefits, livable housing, and outlawing child labor; and

WHEREAS, in 1970, César and the United Farm Workers of America began to organize citrus workers in Florida after learning of the deplorable living conditions and working environments that many of them were subject to; and

WHEREAS, César effectively used peaceful tactics that included fasting for 25 days in 1968, 25 days in 1972, and 36 days in 1988 to call attention to the terrible working and living conditions of farm workers and their children across the United States; and

WHEREAS, in 1972, through the leadership of César, the United Farm Workers of America successfully bargained a contract with the Coca-Cola Company and the Minute Maid Company, that protected citrus workers across the state of Florida; and

WHEREAS, César died on April 23, 1993, and was laid to rest at the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America, known as Nuestra Señora de La Paz; and
WHEREAS, since the death of César Estrada Chávez, schools, parks, streets, libraries, and other public facilities, have been named in his honor; and

WHEREAS, during his lifetime, César Estrada Chávez was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, 1974, and 1975

WHEREAS, March 31 is recognized as “César Chávez Day”, an official State holiday in California, optional in Colorado and Texas; and

WHEREAS, on August 8, 1994, César Estrada Chávez was posthumously awarded the Presidential Award of Freedom; and

WHEREAS, on May 5, 2012, the Navy christened and launched the dry cargo/ammunition ship the USNS Cesar Chavez honoring César who served the Navy during World War II; and

WHEREAS, on October 8, 2012, the César Estrada Chávez National Monument in Keene, California was established; and

WHEREAS, on March 31, 2013, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 31 to be “Cesar Chavez Day” to honor the enduring legacy of Cesar Estrada Chavez; and

WHEREAS, the influence of César Estrada Chávez extends far beyond agriculture and provides inspiration for those working to better human rights, empower workers, and advance the 
American dream;

Be it resolved by The State of Florida:

That March 31, 2015, and each March 31 hereafter, is not only recognized as “Cesar Chavez Day” but that it is also designated as an official state holiday.

Prepared by Daniel and Mayra Barajas Young American Dreamers, Inc. 2015

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