The Santa Rita Center Was Pivotal to Cesar Chavez’s Activism

Isaac Vallenilla
 | February 6, 2023

Credit: Nuestro Stories

Historic buildings dazzle with their unique architecture and design. Their value is linked to the long years of service to a community and/or the events that occurred there, as is the case of the San Rita Center. 

Although its structure is not out-of-this-world, it was the center of one of the vital fights for civil rights in the United States.

Read more: Forty Acres, a Pinnacle of Farmworkers’ Rights

Cesar Chavez left his mark on the Santa Rita Center 

Santa Rita Center is located near Buckeye Road and 7th Street, between Sky Harbor Airport and downtown Phoenix. It was built in 1957 by the Sacred Heart Parish. Initially, it was used as a catechetical classroom and community hall. 

In the late 1960s, however, the building became the center of a new group called Chicanos Por La Causa, an organization created to support and help residents in the area.

But what makes Santa Rita Center such an iconic and important place for the Latino community in the United States? 

It was first the place where activist Cesar Chavez went on his hunger strike and where Dolores Huerta coined the phrase “Sí se puede” (Yes, we can) as part of their campaign for workers’ civil rights.

Yet, time took its toll on the center and it fell into disrepair in the mid-1970s. It wasn’t until the 2000s that Chicanos Por La Causa acquired the center, again, and have been trying to maintain it ever since.

On May 13, 2022, at the Santa Rita Center, the fiftieth anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s fast was celebrated. Dolores Huerta attended the event, where she spoke about Chavez’s legacy and how the struggle continues to this day.

The Santa Rita Center is now used for special events such as Cesar Chavez’s birthday celebration, community gatherings, and is expected to serve as a museum someday.

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