(FOX40.COM) — There’s an effort underway to breathe new life into one of the oldest public spaces in California.
Cesar Chavez Plaza has been at the heart of downtown Sacramento for more than 165 years.
At the plaza, there’s a statue of its namesake, Cesar Chavez, who was a labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers.
The union brought change to working and living conditions for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. He embodied the Latino spirit of perseverance and that’s the spirit local Sacramento leaders want the downtown plaza to radiate.
Efforts to revitalize the plaza are being led by Ernesto Delgado, whose goal is to create a place where all people, all Latinos, come together to enjoy Latino culture.
“We can’t stop forgetting what it stands for, the efforts that were put in by Cesar Chavez and all of his followers,” Delgado said.
Delgado’s commitment began six years ago when he opened La Cosecha, a restaurant that’s helped bring more people to Cesar Chavez Plaza.
Efforts have been strengthened with partnerships with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, private businesses, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, and support from city hall.
A farmers’ market at the plaza called Bodega Days brings a variety of vendors from unique backgrounds. Among them is Pamela Marquez, who sells jamaica, a traditional Mexican tea.
“Business is booming. I have developed a following here,” Marquez said.
Across the way from Marquez is Jessi Flores, who gives Sacramentans a taste of Peruvian culture.
“I want people to get to know Peru through the things I sell here, to appreciate its beauty and the amazing work of the artisans who made all of this back in Peru,” Flores said. “These are the Incan colors..80% of these products are from Cusco.”
The fusion of cultures has helped increase foot traffic at the downtown plaza.
“This year we’re actually 54% above where we were last year as far as park visitation goes and that’s outperforming the rest of downtown,” Downtown Sacramento Partnership Economic Director Scott Ford said. “Cesar Chavez Plaza really has been in a bright spot.”
There’s more to the park, as umbrellas and chairs purchased through the SMUD Shine Award were set up earlier in September. The amenities provide a place for people to visit, sit and maybe make a new friend.
There are also book racks, ping pong tables, lawn games, and an imagination playground for kids, and it doesn’t stop there.
Every Wednesday at 6 p.m., La Cosecha sponsors Zumba for the community at the center of the plaza, bringing out a professional Zumba instructor.
Delgado’s vision for the plaza is expanding.
“I want to add an arch over J street that says Cesar Chavez Plaza Square Hospitality Zone, where this block, this square, along with all the businesses, the buildings, the hotel, we all become one little association where we focus on making this plaza a vibrant place,” Delgado said.
“Ernesto Delgado and the vision that he has for this area, really making it the epicenter of downtown Sacramento is extraordinary,” Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Cathy Rodriguez-Aguirre said.
Delgado said he would also like to activate the old city hall building into either a Latino arts center, a Latino museum or maybe a historical museum.
“We have community coming together and recognizing that this is a civic plaza that belongs to everyone and is capable of so much more,” Delgado said.
With Cesar Chavez still inspiring people today, fostering the spirit of sí se puede, it can be done.
“Coming from a family of farmworkers, I know that he was very instrumental in changing the working conditions for my father, for my mother,” Marquez said. “I’m just happy that we’re represented here. It’s such a beautiful space.”