Yesterday, my trip took me along Cesar Chavez Avenue or, more specifically Cesar E. Chavez Avenue.
You might be forgiven for thinking that the Latino activist had a middle name that began with E. At least that’s what the local authorities seem to want you to think. But the E stands for something else more revealing.
The full name of the ‘great man’ was Cesar Estrada Chavez. The ‘Estrada’ isn’t a middle name, it was his mother’s last name. Sych hyphenated last names (minus the hyphen) are typical in Latin America, and they’re not reduced to a single letter the way American middle names might be.
So why Cesar E. Chavez Avenue rather than Cesar Estrada Chavez Avenue?
That’s really asking why the labor activist turned cultist wasn’t known by his full name. The answer is all about image. Cesar Chavez sounds strong, simple and working class, whereas Cesar Estrada Chavez sounds more elitist. Americans, then at any rate, were more likely to see hyphenated last names as a mark of dynastic elites (which is not necessarily the case south the border) and dropping the ‘Estrada’ helped make Chavez seem like a man of the people.
That’s how propaganda works. And much like Chavez’s comments about illegal aliens, some things are inconvenient for political reasons and need to be airbrushed away.