The Rise of Symbols and Icons in the United Farm Workers Movement (Alonso Iniguez)



The goal of this lesson plan is to introduce 12th grade students to the use of symbols and icons in social and political movements. They will analyze El Plan Delano, the manifesto of the United Farm Workers movement, and analyze the role of these symbols within the movement itself.



This lesson will ask students to critically engage with the manifesto of the United Farm Workers Movement, El Plan Delano. Students will first learn about the United Farm Worker movement and Cesar Chavez. With this background, students will then analyze El Plan Delano and interpret its meaning and role in the movement.

Students will then be asked to identify any symbols that they may recognize and share how they perceived them inside and outside the context of the United Farm Workers Movement.

The class activity for this teaching module revolves around understanding why and how symbols are used in social and political movements. They will be tasked to identify symbols in materials used during the movement such as banners, buttons and newspapers and trace the history and impact of these symbols from the past towards the present.


Essential Understanding:

Symbols in social and political movements are essential to create a narrative that contributes to the revolution of culture that accompanies the social movement and unites a collective of people under a common symbol.


Essential Questions:

  1. What are the symbols that Cesar Chavez uses for the United Farm Workers Movement?
  2. Why does he select the specific symbols that he does?
  3. How did people involved with the movement perceived the symbols under which they rallied?
  4. Have these symbols been adopted into other social and political movements?
  5. How have these symbols contributed to the construction of an identity under this social movement?



Benito Juarez: Mexican politician of Zapotec origin who served as president of Mexico for five terms from 1858-1872. His presidency resisted French occupation and modernized the country through liberal measures.

Emiliano Zapata: A leading figure in the Mexican Revolution and founder of the agragian movement called Zapatismo.

Virgen de Guadalupe: Also known as Virgin of Guadalupe, she is considered the religious matriarch of Mexico.

Schenley: Liquor company that was one of the companies that the UFW boycotted.

El Teatro Campesino: Theater company created by Luis Valdez and commissioned by Cesar Chavez. Their performances revealed the plight of the farmworker.



The United Farm Workers (UFW) is a labor union that was founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962, with the goal of obtaining better living standards, wages and working conditions for the farmworkers of America. Although the labor union had very humble beginnings, it rose to be an influential political entity that continues to influence contemporary social justice movements such as immigrant rights and access to education. One of the biggest factors that the UFW continues to have is via the tradition of adopting of symbols and icons to unify individuals for a cause.

This tradition of cultural symbols and icons within the UFW and later movements began with the commissioning of Luis Valdez’s El Teatro Campesino by Cesar Chavez. El Teatro Campesino was an effective method to garner political support, as the audience was able to relate to the stories displayed and empathized with Chavez’s message. This positive correlation between art and support for the UFW motivated Cesar Chavez to embrace artistic mediums in order to rally support.1 This made banners, posters, plays, songs, and icons heavily represented in murals a method

When Schenley workers sprayed farmworkers with sulphur while they were protesting in a picket line, it was decided that the UFW would march as a form or protest.2 At the same time, the visit of a priest in Delano reminded workers of the coming Lenten season and the pilgrimages that they would take in Mexico. With this overarching religious mindset, UFW leadership branded their political march as a pilgrimage.However, some individuals were not pleased to march on a pilgrimage with a very heavy religious tone.4 Cesar Chavez knew that he had to get all the support that he could get and understood that he required another symbol that would attract it. Besides branding the march as a religious pilgrimage, he also branded it as a revolution.

El Plan Delano was published in El Malcriado “La Voz del Campesino” issue No. 33. It is a manifesto that begins with, “Pilgrimage, Penitence, Revolution” in Spanish. It is a statement of purpose as to why the UFW has organized this march and on what foundations is their organization built on. Besides proclaiming the Virgin Mary as the queen of the Mexicans, El Plan Delano also uses language by renowned secular Mexican Revolutionaries such as Benito Juarez. “Respect for the rights of others is peace.” El Plan Delano was inspired by Emiliano Zapta’s El Plan de Ayala. This religious foundation and selection of symbols was carefully selected in order to gain support from all sides. By appealing to the historical and religious foundations of those participating in the movement.

The selection of these symbols and success of the UFW has led to them seeping into other related social movements such as the Chicano Movement. The tradition of public art displays has facilitated the formation of a cultural identity that continues to have a religious and revolutionary foundation that motivates people to fight for their rights.



Hasta Sacramento 1966short documentary on the pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento.

El Plan Delano – manifesto of the UFW.

Chicano Park Murals – shows influence of symbols and art adopted by UFW in Chicano art today.

 Cultivating Creativity – The arts and symbols of the UFW during the 1960s and 1970s.



This teaching module is intended to occur over a period of three hours over two days.

Day 1: 1:30 hours

Students will first be given 5 minutes to free-write what they think symbols are and how these are used. We will then have a 10-minute discussion during which a few of the students share their definition of symbols. The main goal is for the students to realize that symbols do not just appear but are carefully chosen for what they represent.


The rest of the class will be devoted to introducing the students to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Worker Movement. We will talk about the beginning of this movement and what it meant for the individuals involved. Watch documentary Hasta Sacramento 1966.


We will end the session with reading El Plan Delano. 


Day 2: 1:30 hours

Continuing with El Plan Delano, we will now focus on its construction. Students will be given 10 minutes to interpret and write about the tone, style, symbols and icons that are represented in the document. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the historical context in order to interpret the document. Class discussion is focused on the source of the symbols used in the document. The point is for the students to understand the historical and religious roots of El Plan Delano.


We will then focus the lecture on the success of the pilgrimage and how the overall success of the UFW via the use of symbols and icons has led to their prominent use in Chicano art (look at Chicano Park Murals). For this activity, it will also be useful for students to visit link Cultivating Creativity. This website is focused on the art of the UFW during its peak movements, which will facilitate their comparison to more contemporary art. This will demonstrate to students how social movements and their outcomes help construct identities.



  1. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary sources; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  2. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
  3. Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
  4. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


Additional Sources:

Jacques Levy and Cesar Chavez: Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa. New York: Norton, 1975.

Johnson, Andrea Shan. “Mixed Up in the Making: Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and the Images of Their Movements.” PhD diss., University of Missouri-Columbia, 2006.

McCaughan, Ed. Art and Social Movements: Cultural Politics in Mexico and Aztlan. Durham, NC: Duke, 2012.



1 Jacques Levy and Cesar Chavez: Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa. New York: Norton, 1975, 207-208.

2 Arthur Hoope, “The History of the Pilgrimage,” El Malcriado: La Voz del Campesino, 33.

3 Arthur Hoope, “The History of the Pilgrimage,” El Malcriado: La Voz del Campesino, 33.

4 Arthur Hoope, “The History of the Pilgrimage,” El Malcriado: La Voz del Campesino, 33.


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