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Google takes Easter heat over Cesar Chavez doodle

Rather than Easter, Google's doodle today commemorates farm labor leader Cesar Chavez's birthday. That's brought much criticism, although Chavez himself was a devout Christian.

By Staff writer / March 31, 2013

Cesar Chavez Google doodle. Critics say the image Sunday should have had something to do with Easter.

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Google is taking heat for its Easter Sunday doodle – that cartoon modification of its logo that changes from day to day.

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Today, the middle letter is a round portrait of the late migrant farm labor union leader Cesar Chavez.

Like many such doodles, it comes on the birthday of the subject. Mr. Chavez was born March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona.

But appearing on Easter – one of the holiest days for hundreds of millions of Christians around the world – the Chavez Google doodle has set off a mini-storm of protest, including (inevitably) in the Twitterverse.

Some examples:

“Unbelievable! Their true colors are showing! Yahoo here I come!”

“Damn Google…. No Easter wishes from those Atheists.”

“A huge BOOO!! to Google for making their holiday doodle about Cesar Chavez's 86th birthday instead of Easter (celebrated by over a billion).”

“I've got nothing against Cesar Chavez, but even Chavez was a Catholic. I doubt he'd want Google to recognize him on Resurrection Day.”

“Better a dead lefty, them a risen Lord.”

“Google uses Caesar Chavez on Easter instead of using something Easter related? Okay, I'm switching to Bing.”

Apparently confusing Cesar Chavez with Hugo Chavez, the late president of Venezuela, one wrote: “Google can't celebrate Easter but can celebrate a dictator's birthday?!”

But there’s been more thoughtful comment as well, unlimited by the snappy 140-character Twitter format – much of it alluding to Chavez’s own Christian religion

“Google’s odd choice should remind us that whatever one thinks of Chavez’s politics, they are impossible to understand apart from his belief in the resurrected Christ,” writes Matthew Schmitz, deputy editor of First Things, an ecumenical journal published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life.

“As a Christian, Chavez believed that the first revolution had to be a revolution of the soul, which meant that personal sacrifices were demanded – not just of the oppressor, but of the oppressed,” writes Mr. Schmitz. “For Chavez, social reform was never merely external. Without peace of spirit and purity of heart, there was little point in pursuing justice. Collective bargaining, just wages, shorter workdays: for Chavez none of these made sense outside the fact of his risen Lord.”

Although Chavez has been gone for 20 years, he continues to be remembered as an important figure in US history.

Cesar Chavez Day, is a state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas.

President Obama has proclaimed March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day and designated the 105-acre Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Kern County, California, farm country.

Mr. Obama’s campaign rallying cry – “Yes, we can!” – echoed the UFW’s “Sí, se puede.”

Coincidentally, the Chavez Google doodle flap comes on the weekend that business and labor leaders have agreed on a guest worker program as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

Many critics may not know that Chavez was a deeply spiritual man and ascetic who tried to follow the nonviolent path of another legendary leader – Mohandas Gandhi.

As a reporter, I once joined him on a march on behalf of farmworkers through California’s blistering Imperial Valley.

I was doing a lot of distance running in those days, and I thought I was in pretty good shape. But I had a hard time keeping up with Chavez (15 years my senior) as we walked along during the interview. Only later did I find out that he was well into a quiet personal fast and hadn't had anything to eat in 10 days.

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