Lifestyle & Belief

Hugo Chavez and Cesar Chavez are not the same person: GlobalPost explains



Faine Greenwood

Are Cesar Chavez and Hugo Chavez the same person? Is everyone named Chavez somehow interrelated?

That's the question that has stymied a number of Americans this week in the wake of the re-election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — an event that coincided with US President Barack Obama's dedication of a monument to Latino labor leader Cesar Chavez.

As has been amply demonstrated online, a number of people appear to be under the impression the two Chavezes are one and the same. Even though Cesar Chavez happens to have been dead since 1993, was an American, and was not of Venezuelan descent. Unlike Hugo Chavez.

Allow us to make this very, very clear.


Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American labor, civil rights, and Latino political leader, says the Cesar Chavez Foundation website. Born in Arizona in 1927, Chavez’s family lost their land during the Great Depression, forcing them to move to California to become migrant workers. Chavez served in the US Navy during the war, then moved with his wife to Los Angeles.

While working for the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group, Chavez began to realize his dream of creating a farm workers union, recognizing the “trap” in which many of these laborers found themselves.

In 1962, he founded the National Farm Workers Association, which would eventually become the United Farm Workers. During the 1960s, Cesar Chavez even turned down an offer from John F Kennedy to make him head of the Peace Corps in Latin America (which would have made him very much Not Like Hugo Chavez).

Chavez won many victories for farm laborers, who were formerly an essentially powerless group, and used non-violent techniques inspired by Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr to achieve his goals. He also took a life-long vow of poverty, and coined the phrase “Si, si puede! (Yes, We Can!)." You probably remember that from Obama’s campaign.

Cesar Chavez died in 1993, which means it is unlikely he would have been able to conjure up a second act as a Venezuelan socialist strongman. Even if he had wanted to!

Robert Kennedy called Chavez “one of the heroic figures of our time," according to Smithsonian Magazine.

It is unlikely Kennedy would have said that about Hugo Chavez, as Hugo Chavez is, one, not American, two, not particularly heroic, and three, Robert Kennedy died long before Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.

President Obama dedicated the Cesar Chavez Monument at the labor leader's former home in Keene, California on Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cesar Chavez Monument, not Hugo Chavez Monument. Different.


This is Hugo Chavez, who has led Venezuela with a socialist, anti-American government since 1999. That would be six years after Cesar Chavez died at the age of 66 in San Luis, Arizona in 1993.

More from GlobalPost: Full coverage of Venezuela's vote

Chavez was re-elected on Sunday to another six year term as the president of Venezuela. This happened to be the day before President Obama dedicated a monument to Cesar Chavez in California, as noted above. This may just be the source of all this confusion.

See? Different!

[View the story "Cesar Chavez and Hugo Chavez are Different" on Storify]