"Colegio Cesar Chavez" was a college-without-walls program that existed in Mt. Angel, Oregon (a small town about 50 miles south of Portland) from 1973 to 1983. After Mt. Angel College closed, Colegio took use of the facilities and named itself after the famous civil rights leader, César Chávez. It was founded by a man named Sonny Montes, who is featured in the recently released book Sonny Montes and Mexican American Activism in Oregon
Eventually, Colegio closed its doors after having graduated only about one class of students. But in its day it was the only four-year "Chicano" college in the nation, and it had correspondence students from as far away as New York and Canada. Carlos Maldonado says that Colegio occupies a unique niche in Chicano history because of its geographical location and its alternative educational model, and that it should be remembered for the opportunity it provides future college founders to learn what pitfalls to avoid.
Nosotros: The Hispanic People of Oregon contains a section called "Memories of Colegio César Chávez" that details the tortured history of the college, as well as providing some reflections by those who were involved in the founding of Colegio.
[This is my letter to the editor of The Statesman Journal, the local paper in Salem, Oregon.]
July 16, 2004
Thank you for your article about the St. Joseph Shelter (June 13). I was delighted that you referred to Colegio Cesar Chavez as a previous occupant of the shelter’s current location.
My stepfather, who was Mexican-American, worked at Colegio Cesar Chavez, and my family and I lived on the grounds in the Victorian house behind the main campus building from 1980 to 1983. My memories of Colegio Cesar Chavez are the happiest and most vibrant of my childhood.
The walls were covered with larger-than-life Diego Rivera-style murals, and the students, the teachers and visitors all contributed to making Colegio an incredible place to live. I even had the honor of meeting Cesar Chavez.
Ever since my stepfather’s death in 2001, Colegio has come to be a symbol in my mind of him. In an attempt to remedy the virtual erasing of Colegio’s existence from local history, I have visited the grounds occasionally during the past few years to share some mementos and photos with the current employees and occupants.
Somewhere in my heart I will always be the little boy who lived at Colegio. And thanks to St. Joseph Shelter, I feel the spirit of Colegio Cesar Chavez lives on.
—Andrew Parodi, Gervais
Further Material on César Chávez
There are many books available on Amazon about César Chávez: