California: Cesar's War

As leader and prophet of "la Huelga," the California grape pickers' 35-month-old strike in the verdant San Joaquin Valley, Cesar Chavez, 41, has combined hard-knuckled organizing tactics with a brand of mysticism peculiarly his own. A Mexican-American who from boyhood worked in the vineyards himself, Chavez patched together his tatterdemalion National Farm Workers Association in 1965, organized scores of picket lines, boycotts, church meetings, marches and sing-ins to lift his people out of peonage.

The movement—"la Causa'' to its members—has been unexpectedly successful in its attack on the grapes-of-wrath misery to which...