Forty Acres, Paulo Agbayani Retirement Village, 10701 Mettler Avenue, Delano, Kern County, CA
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See HABS CA-2878, Forty Acres, for additional information about the site.
Significance: The Paulo Agbayani Retirement Village is one of four buildings at Forty Acres, a property closely associated with the life of Cesar Chavez and the history of the farm worker movement he led from 1962 until his death in 1993. Located on the outskirts of Delano, California, Forty Acres served as the headquarters of the United Farm Workers (UFW) from 1969 to 1972. The property also served as the farm worker movement's flagship "service center," under the auspices of the National Farm Workers Service Center, Inc. (NFWSC), from the late 1960s to the late 1970s. Forty Acres was the site of several significant events between 1968 and 1993, and it continues to serve as an important locus of collective
memory. Forty Acres was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008.
Plans for the Paulo Agbayani Retirement Village—the fourth building constructed at Forty Acres—began to take shape in August 1969. As Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, and other Filipino leaders understood, Filipino men who had arrived in the United States before the 1930s encountered oppressive social conditions, including discriminatory laws that made it difficult for them to start families and save money for
retirement. As a result, thousands of Filipino farm workers who stayed in the United States through the 1960s found themselves working past the age of retirement without the financial, familial, or public resources that would have enabled them to leave their jobs in the fields. By the late 1960s, their need for affordable retirement housing had grown acute.
When the NFWSC began to plan for the construction of the Retirement Village, Filipino union members envisioned a building that would provide communal spaces such as a dining room, living room, and recreation room but also comforts unheard of in the labor camps where most Filipino farm workers lived, including indoor bathrooms, private telephones, and central air conditioning. Architect Luis Piña's final plans for the Village called for mission revival architectural style, which Cesar Chavez and his brother, Richard Chavez, had chosen as the guiding architectural style for Forty Acres. A central courtyard designed by landscape architect Dennis Dahlin would enhance the Village's communal atmosphere.
As with the first three buildings constructed at Forty Acres, the method of construction for Agbayani Village reflected its close association with the farm worker movement. The contractor, George Solinas, oversaw a small crew of workers, but they were assisted by hundreds of volunteer
carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, tile setters, and sheet-metal workers and more than one thousand unskilled volunteers from California
and across the United States as well as Canada, England, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Japan. Their work was completed in June 1974,
and the Village opened its doors to fifty-eight new residents in February 1975.
Agbayani Village gained additional historical significance as the site of Cesar Chavez's last public fast, a "Fast for Life" that began on July 16, 1988. Chavez fasted for thirty-six days, and he spent the duration of the fast in Room 37 (in the southeast corner of the Village). When Chavez broke the fast on August 21, 1988, friends such as Ethel Kennedy, political leaders such as Jesse Jackson, celebrity supporters such as Martin Sheen, and thousands of union members arrived at Forty Acres for a Mass service and celebration.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N2081
Survey number: HABS CA-2878-D
Building/structure dates: 1973-1974 Initial Construction
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 08001090