César E. Chávez National Monument, known also as Nuestra Senora Reina De La Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace) or simply La Paz, is a 108-acre site located in Tehachapi Pass, situated in the Tehachapi Mountains - a transverse range separating the Central Valley of California on the northwest, and the Mojave Desert on the southeast. The monument is located northeast of the town of Keene, and is operated by the National Park Service and the National Chávez Center.
César E. Chávez is recognized as the most important Latino leader in the history of the United States during the twentieth century. Chávez emerged as a civil rights leader among Latinos during the 1950s. During the 1960s, he became more widely recognized as the charismatic leader of the farmworker movement and the United Farmworkers union, but he also assumed major roles in the broader labor movement, the Chicano movement, and the environmental movement. As a result, Chávez earned a higher degree of national prominence and significance during his lifetime than any other Latino in U.S. history.
This recognition of Chávez’s national significance is grounded in the historical record of his achievements. During the 1960s, Chávez led a movement of thousands of farmworker families and their supporters as they created the nation’s first permanent agricultural labor union.
As president, Chávez steered that union to a series of unprecedented victories, including contracts that covered more than 100,000 farmworkers, raised farm workers’ wages above the poverty level, replaced a labor-contracting system with union-run hiring halls, established grievance procedures, funded health care and pension plans for farmworkers, mandated the provision of clean drinking water and restroom facilities in the fields, regulated the use of pesticides in the fields, and established a fund for community service programs.
The Quonset Hut shown here was built in the 1950s by the State of California during the last part of an era when the property functioned as a tuberculosis hospital. When César Chávez relocated his office from Delano, CA to La Paz in 1970, many buildings that existed on the site were repurposed. The Quonset Hut became the security headquarters for the United Farm Workers.
La Paz was designed a national monument in 2012 by President Barack Obama. At that time, the National Park Service became stewards of the visitor center and the Chávez House, partnership with the César Chávez Foundation on managing the monument.
Of the 108 acres within the boundaries of the national monument, 1.9 acres are federal land, 8.6 acres are federal interest, and 96.5+ are privately owned lands operated by the National Chávez center.
This panorama shows the visitor center operated by the National Park Service.
Here you will see the arbor that marks the entrance to the Chávez Memorial Garden.
Entryway to Chávez Memorial
Encompassing more than 1,000 square feet, the memorial garden includes the Chávez burial site, several beds of specialized roses, a screen of Italian Cypress, and rosemary lining the perimeter of the garden.
Upon his death in 1993, Chávez was buried in a rose garden that had been cultivated at this location. Landscape architect Dennis Dahlin designed and supervised the construction of the formal memorial space in 2001.
The Desert Garden is planted with desert species found in Arizona, where César Chávez once lived. The garden was created in 2001.
The cross-shaped building was the Financial Management building for the United Farm Workers during the 1970s. The building was originally constructed as a children’s hospital in the early 1920s.
Building 4 is the largest building in the National Monument. Built in 1927 as part of the State of California’s tuberculosis sanitarium, it was the first hospital on the site. The UFW converted the building to a dormitory in the 1970s and it functioned as such through the 1980s.
Thousands of union members came to La Paz to help devise and implement organizing strategies, to receiving training in contract administration, and to strengthen their sense of solidarity.
This area was the central hub of activity during the UFW period. The cafeteria in the center of the residential area, flanked by the Chávez house and a number of other residential buildings, became a gathering place where people lived and celebrated together.
The residential area is sited uphill to the north, and sprawls out to encompass the wide open terrain within the oak savannah. The development in this area is sited as the same elevation and the wide open hilltop provides for wide roads and open space around each building. This area is defined by the Tehachapi Creek to the southwest and the central peak within the site that gradually rises to nearly 3,000 feet.
UFW Administrative Building
The only building constructed in the early 1970s was a small, metal structure used as a graphics shop. This building has been added to several times in the 1970s and 1980s and currently serves as the union’s administration building.
La Paz as Refuge
The landscape of La Paz offered Chávez a personal refuge. As he told writer Jacques Levy in 1970, he needed a place “to reflect on what was happening, to shed all of those million little problems, and to look at things a little more dispassionately.”
The site’s varied elevation and landscape of oak savannah and grassland provide an open character and expansive views of the surrounding mountains. In the drier months, the California Blue Oaks color the landscape laden with golden grass. While after the cold rainy winter, spring brings wildflowers and lush green grasses.
Villa La Paz
The North Unit, recently renamed the Villa La Paz Conference center, is located near the northeast corner of the property. During the UFW era it played an important role in the community’s everyday life - the building was the center of celebrations, education, and business.
Designed by architect Charles H. Biggar of Bakersfield and constructed in 1929 as a 44-bed children's preventorium, the North Unit Consists of four separate buildings. The building felt into disuse during the 1990s. A restoration project completed in 2010 now allows the building to be used as a full-service conference and retreat center.
The Villa La Paz area is a key view within the National Monument. The area offers panoramic views of the Three Peaks and is situated amidst scattered oak trees on gently sloping terrain.