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Central Valley

Remember César E. Chávez in the Tehachapi foothills

Paul Chavez at the grave of his father, labor leader Cesar Chavez. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Paul Chavez at the grave of his father, labor leader Cesar Chavez. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Why: Because he changed the way California's farmers and farmworkers live.


What: In the busiest days of his battles to gain rights for farmworkers in California's Central Valley, United Farm Workers leader César E. Chávez used to strategize with trusted aides in the hamlet of Keene.

All these years later, Chávez (1927-1993) is buried at the site, which is part of the César E. Chávez National Monument. And if you're picturing a forlorn, dusty spot in the middle of a big, flat valley, think again.

To reach the compound (north of Tehachapi and south of Bakersfield), you twist and turn on a two-lane backroad (including Highway 58, then Woodford-Tehachapi Road) through Tehachapi foothills studded with oak and peppered with brush. It's about 11 miles northwest of the pleasant town of Tehachapi -- where it wouldn't hurt to stop for a stroll and a snack at Kohnen's Authentic German Bakery -- and 31 miles east of Bakersfield.

Besides the grave, the site includes a memorial rose garden, exhibition rooms (lots of black-and-white pictures of strikes, marches and demonstrations in the 1970s), a modest bookstore and Chávez's office, preserved largely as it was when he was crusading against often-brutal conditions in the fields. The work of Chávez and his allies led to passage of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, the first law in the U.S. that recognized farmworkers' collective bargaining rights.

Where: 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Road, Keene, 126 miles north of downtown L.A.

How much: Free.

Info:  César E. Chávez National Monument

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