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Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrates Cesar Chavez and Colorado River

PHOTO: Colorado River. Image by Paul Caputo
PHOTO: Colorado River. Image by Paul Caputo
October 11, 2012

Hispanic Heritage month is being celebrated by honoring the late civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, and by calling for the preservation of the Colorado River where he grew up. Latino leaders from across the Southwest gathered on the banks of the river Wednesday to highlight its cultural importance to Latinos and honor the iconic farm labor leader.

Chavez grew up in a homestead in the North Gila River Valley. Miguel Orozco, California coordinator for with Nuestro Rio (Spanish for "our river"), says the river and its tributaries are an important part of the American-Latino heritage.

"It's not only just reminding folks of the shared heritage, but also what are the necessary steps to protect one of the greatest river systems in the United States."

Drought, over-consumption and climate change have diminished the river so much that it no longer reaches the Gulf of California. A recent poll commissioned by Nuestro Rio found that more than 90 percent of Latino voters think it is important for the government help protect the community's rivers and lakes for family recreation and the overall well-being of the environment.

Orozco says the Latino connection to the river goes back for many centuries. His own family came to this country to work the fields, he says.

"There's a connection that you have with the earth, and with the environment, and especially with the Colorado River. And there are many communities, Hispanic communities, that live by the river."

The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study - conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation, a branch of the Interior Department - is scheduled for release next month. It looks at strategies such as city conservation programs and more water-efficient farming techniques.

The complete polling results are available at

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA