Before Cesar Chávez became a national civil rights and labor leader, he worshiped at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in east San Jose.
Now the hall on that church campus where Chavez learned to organize impoverished farm workers is a national historic landmark, recognizing its status as a property of “exceptional value to the nation.”
The designation of 24 new National Historic Landmarks this week, “ensures future generations have the ability to learn from the past,” wrote Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in the announcement.
The former Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Chapel in East San Jose, California, was a one-story, wood-frame structure originally built as a parish church in West San Jose in 1911. When the original owners sold the church building in 1953, it was moved to the current parish’s location in East San Jose, reconstructed, and reconsecrated as a mission chapel.
At that time, the Mayfair neighborhood was filling up with Mexican-American Catholics, and they asked the Diocese of San Francisco for their own church and a Spanish-speaking priest. Rev. Donald McDonnell was an activist priest, who encouraged his parishioners to get involved in politics, especially with issues that affected them directly. One of the parishioners who took McDonnell’s teachings to heart was Chávez, whose farm worker parents had moved the family there from Arizona.
Later renamed McDonnell Hall, the modest chapel became a center for grassroots activism on several social fronts and a training ground for community leaders like Chávez. It was at the mission that he and others got involved with the Community Service Organization in the 1950s and ’60s as it conducted Read More …