“Where there had once been despair, Cesar gave workers a reason to hope,” Obama said. “What the growers didn’t know, he said, was that it’s not bananas or grapes or lettuce, it’s the people.”

While not a campaign event, hints of the president’s reelection efforts filtered through.

“[Chavez] believed that when someone who works 12 hours in the field can earn enough to put food on the table and save up to by a home, that lifts the entire economy,” Obama said.

The message dovetails with the president’s economic message of fairness and prosperity from the bottom up. Obama also tied Chavez’s narrative into the idea that there is opportunity in the U.S. for those willing to work for it.

“Maybe I started off working in the fields, but maybe someday I’ll own my business,” Obama said, speaking as a hypothetical field worker. “That’s the story of my ancestors, that’s the story of your ancestors.”

The president concluded his speech with three chants of “Si se puede,” Spanish for “Yes we can,” his campaign slogan from 2008.

Chavez’s widow, Helen, and son, Paul, were on hand for the event, as were a host of Hispanic lawmakers and officials, including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ari.), and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D).

Obama has overwhelming support among Hispanic voters, with some polls showing him ahead of GOP challenger Mitt Romney by as many as 60 percentage points.