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Maybe the Navy shouldn’t name a ship after Cesar Chavez

LatinaLista — The Navy’s recent goodwill gesture of offering to name a cargo ship after the iconic Latino civil rights leader Cesar Chavez is drawing fire from some people.

It wasn’t unexpected.

Cesar_Chavez_016.jpgIt wasn’t unexpected that far right-wingers, for whom Latino surnames are like the scent of blood to feeding sharks, would rally and proclaim their disagreement. The media watchdog group, MediaMatters, found just how bizarre some reacted to the Navy’s intention when they heard Glenn Beck comparing naming a ship after Chavez like naming one after Joseph Stalin. Not a flattering comparison by any means.

It wasn’t even unexpected when a Republican congressman objected.

A young Cesar Chavez served in the Navy long before he became a civil rights icon.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, castigated the Navy Tuesday for paying too much attention to politics and not enough to tradition and past war heroes, according to CNN.

Yet, Hunter wasn’t against the ship being named after any Latino.

Hunter, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Reserve lieutenant in the Marines said, “If this decision were about recognizing the Hispanic community’s contribution to our nation, many other names come to mind, including Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta. Peralta is one of many Hispanic war heroes-some of whom are worthy of the same recognition.”

Peralta was 25 when he died in a battle in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. After he was shot in the head by friendly fire, he pulled a grenade lobbed by an insurgent under his body before it detonated. Peralta was nominated for the Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life in order to save the lives of his fellow comrades.

It’s not even unexpected that some, who still carry on Chavez’s work today, would balk that a man of peace would want his name attached to a military branch of service.

What is unexpected is that I agree with Hunter.

While it’s true that Cesar Chavez served in the Navy, according to his bio, he wasn’t anymore or any less of a hero than all the other Latino enlistees who served with him. His accomplishments, for what he will forever be remembered, came years after he served in the Navy.

I think having the ship named after Sergeant Rafael Peralta or any other Latino or Latina who distinguished themselves in their military careers would be a far more logical choice for this honor.

The problem is that the at-large Latino community and the mainstream public don’t know enough about the other Latino heroes who have every right to be remembered and honored.

The stories of these other heroes are known mostly only to family, friends and local communities. Their stories are the ones that get cut from school textbooks like what happened in Texas or students will never hear them because classes like Mexican-American Studies classes have been banned in Arizona.

The opportunity to hear about heroic acts by Latinos are so few and far between that the same names are recognized time and time again. It’s time that the Latino community started learning more about Los Otros (the others) and realize that there are many more heroes who are part of US Latino history and they too deserve national recognition — and never to be forgotten.

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