Found 24 Resources containing: dolores huerta
Chicana artist Barbara Carrasco made this portrait in homage to Huerta. Carrasco became a supporter of the farm workers’ movement in the 1970s and served for decades as a volunteer staff artist for the UFW. Carrasco, who considers Huerta her mentor and a close friend, explained her motivations for this portrait: “There are so many icons of men, and icons of women painted by men, that I wanted (as a woman) to create an iconic image of Huerta to recognize her as an equal of César Chávez and, historically, the most important negotiator for the United Farm Workers.”
Con su ejemplo como líder laboral y defensora de los derechos civiles, a la vez que desafió las reglas que restringían el papel de la mujer en sociedad, Huerta se convirtió en uno de los primeros símbolos del poder femenino para los movimientos chicano y feminista.
La artista chicana Barbara Carrasco realizó este retrato en homenaje a Huerta. Carrasco fue simpatizante del movimiento de los trabajadores agrícolas durante los años setenta y trabajó por varias décadas como artista voluntaria para la UFW. Considera a Huerta su mentora y amiga, y explicó así lo que la motivó a hacer este retrato: “Existen tantos iconos de hombres, e iconos de mujeres pintados por hombres, que quise [como mujer] crear una imagen icónica de Huerta para honrarla como figura a la altura de César Chávez y como la negociadora más importante en la historia de la Unión de Trabajadores Campesinos”.
Barbara Carrasco (nacida en 1955)
Galería Nacional de Retratos, Instituto Smithsonian; adquisición posible gracias al apoyo del Latino Initiatives Pool, administrado por el Centro Latino del Smithsonian
Los sindicatos se valían de las huelgas como táctica básica de presión contra sus patronos. En septiembre de 1965, varios meses después de una exitosa huelga en el Valle de Coachella en la que los recolectores de uva lograron un aumento de salario en cuestión de una semana, el Comité Organizador de Trabajadores Agrícolas (AWOC), de matrícula en su mayoría filipina, decidió irse a la huelga por mejores salarios en el pueblo de Delano. Allí los rancheros parecían menos dispuestos a ceder rápidamente, dado que la cosecha duraba más tiempo en el Valle de San Joaquín. Además, muchos de los trabajadores del valle estaban afiliados a la Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Campesinos (NFWA), en su mayoría mexicana, y no con el AWOC. Buscando más apoyo, Larry Itliong, presidente del AWOC, solicitó la colaboración de César Chávez y la NFWA. El 16 de septiembre, Día de la Independencia de México, la NFWA votó unánimemente por irse a la huelga junto con el AWOC. El grupo que allí surgió era diverso étnica y culturalmente, e incluía también a afroamericanos, puertorriqueños y árabes. La huelga duró cinco años.
George Ballis (1925–2010)
Impresión en gelatina de plata, 1966
Galería Nacional de Retratos, Instituto Smithsonian
Fred Ross y Dolores Huerta
La vida de Huerta tomó un giro decisivo hacia el activismo cuando conoció a Fred Ross (1910–1992), fundador de la Organización de Servicio a la Comunidad (CSO) en California. La CSO fue una de las primeras organizaciones del país que propulsó iniciativas de autoayuda para los mexicano-americanos. Promovió la participación ciudadana entre las comunidades hispanohablantes a través de campañas para registrar votantes y cursos de naturalización, y ejerció presión ante las autoridades gubernamentales por mejoras de los servicios públicos. Cuando Ross llegó a Stockton en 1955 para establecer un capítulo de la CSO, Huerta empezó a trabajar con él como voluntaria y fue así que encontró su propósito en la vida. Gracias a su dedicación y capacidad, fue designada cabildera de la CSO en Sacramento, donde respondía directamente al director ejecutivo César Chávez, quien trabajaba para la organización desde 1952. Tanto Huerta como Chávez consideraban a Ross su mentor. Cuando cofundaron la Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Campesinos (NFWA) en 1962, Ross permaneció cerca como consultor de la organización.
Cathy E. Murphy (nacida en 1943)
Impresión digital de un negativo original escaneado, 1975 (impresa en 2014)
Cathy Murphy Photographer
Huerta hablando en un mitin
En 1962, cuando César Chávez y Dolores Huerta cofundaron la Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Campesinos, acordaron que él sería la cara pública del sindicato y ella manejaría la logística. Chávez se convirtió en el carismático presidente de la unión, la figura en quien se concentró la atención de la prensa y, a fin de cuentas, la historia. Huerta tuvo también mucha visibilidad, aunque obviamente en una función vicepresidencial. Oradora articulada y enérgica, Huerta dirigía las relaciones públicas del sindicato, comunicando los valores y objetivos del movimiento ante el amplio público en la prensa escrita, la radio y la televisión. También fue fundamental a la hora de levantar la moral de los trabajadores en la líneas de piquete. Su grito de lucha, “¡Sí se puede!”, revelaba su fe en el cambio social y su determinación de lograr el empoderamiento de los trabajadores agrícolas.
Rudy Rodríguez (1936–2001)
Impresión moderna de un negativo original, 1974 (impresa en 2014)
The Farmworker’s Champion Dolores Huerta Receives Her Due, Even as the Struggle for Justice Continues
In the lyrics of his song, “La Peregrinación,” or The Pilgrimage, the acclaimed Chicano musician and composer Agustín Lira captures a pivotal moment in this country’s labor history—the 1965 Delano Grape strike and the subsequent 1966 farm workers’ march in California.
“From Delano I go to Sacramento/ To Sacramento to fight for my rights,” Lira wrote, breathing lyrical voice into his life as a community activist and former farmworker.
Spearheaded by Mexican American and Filipino field laborers whose leaders had joined to form what would soon become the United Farm Workers (UFW), the effort forced major grape growers to sign landmark contracts with the UFW.
Lira, a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow, mobilized farmworkers into action:
And what should I say?
That I am tired?
That the road is long and the end is nowhere in sight?
I did not come to sing because I have such a good voice.
Nor do I come to cry about my bad fortune.
Today, the singer/songwriter continues to chronicle the experiences and little known histories of Chicano, indigenous and immigrant communities integral to California’s cultural fabric. His headliner performance this summer at the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival—accompanied by his own group, Alma, and the Los Angeles-based Viento Callejero, an urban-style tropical music ensemble—was a wild success.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the farmworkers movement, when the San Joaquín Valley of Central California became ground zero in the struggle against exploitation and oppression. There in the fertile fields, the prodigious table grape crop became the symbol of the workers’ struggle, when grape-pickers from the Delano area refused to collect the ripening fruit to protest their poor wages and abysmal living conditions. The strike lasted five years, fueled by wide national and international support from consumers, students, activists, unions, religious institutions and other public sector entities. (As a product of the Chicano Movement, I spent many hours in picket lines during the grape and subsequent lettuce boycotts.)
It is important to appreciate the multicultural nature of the farmworkers movement. The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC)—which later became the UFW—emerged in 1966 from the consolidation of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, led by Filipinos Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco, and César Chávez’s National Farm Workers Association. The merged union later affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Unfortunately, the role of the Manongs (Filipino term of respect for an older man) in forging the farmworkers movement is not well documented, despite the fact that it was 1,500 Filipino farmworkers who first walked off their jobs and actually launched the strike. The UFW, under the leadership of Chávez, tended to overshadow—one can argue, unintentionally—the Filipinos’ role, as well as the participation of other ethnic farmworkers. The half-hour documentary Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers, made by Marissa Aroy and Niall McKay in 2014, has recently been screened across the country and is bringing new light to their important role.
Playing a tactical counterpart to the charismatic César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, a fearless, persuasive and pragmatic woman, marched to Sacramento in 1966 with the farm workers. (The pair had cofounded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962.) This summer, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery cemented her legacy with the opening of the exhibition, One Life: Dolores Huerta, highlighting the decisive role Huerta played in the farmworkers movement. Organized by Taína Caragol, the museum’s curator of Latino art and history, the show features photographs, original speeches, UFW ephemera and Chicano art.
“Dolores Huerta has not gotten her due for the pivotal role she played in the farmworker movement, especially when compared to César Chávez’s notoriety,” notes Caragol. “Featuring her as part of the Portrait Gallery’s One Life series allows us to shed light on the life and accomplishments of this extraordinary American,” she says.
Huerta realized her vision of a better day for farmworkers, leaving her distinct fingerprints on each major UFW victory. Throughout her career, Huerta, mother of 11 children and now 85, continuously embodied new models of womanhood, inspiring generations of women activists.
With the coupling of the Agustín Lira and Alma concert and the opening of the Dolores Huerta exhibition, Smithsonian audiences are being introduced to this important chapter in U.S. labor history with a celebration of two of its notable leaders.
At the same time, these programs serve to remind us that the struggle is not over.
Today’s farmworkers, still mostly composed of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants, compose 60 percent of all farm labor in this country and are subject to challenging working and living conditions. Despite previous labor victories, they are still under-employed, underpaid and poorly educated—only 28 percent have the equivalent of a high school education and seasonal workers average just $9.13 per hour.
According to the Wilson Center’s Migration Policy Institute, demand for labor-intensive fruits, nuts, vegetables, flowers and other horticultural specialties will continue to rise, thus further impacting the lives of these workers for the foreseeable future. Currently, the estimated value of these commodities exceeds $50 billion annually.
The Institute’s 2013 study, Ripe with Change: Evolving Farm Labor Markets in the United States, Mexico, and Central America, notes that while many workers would like to move up the agricultural job ladder, “the job pyramid in agriculture is steep, offering relatively few opportunities for those who begin as seasonal workers to move up to year-round jobs in agriculture or to become farm operators.” The situation is exacerbated by the workers’ limited access to capital in these capital-intensive agricultural sectors, an impediment to becoming operators themselves.
And, the situation is further complicated by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal’s recent decision to deny the Department of Justice’s request to stay the temporary injunction of implementation of the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which included the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).
Nearly 50 percent of all farmworkers are foreign born, mostly Mexican and Central American. Farmworker Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, estimates that 700,000 farmworkers and their spouses could be eligible to come forward to apply for temporary protection from deportation and work authorization under these deferred action opportunities. The uncertainties around the future of President Obama’s executive action, issued last November, further cloud the future of these workers and the operations of farm operators, not inconsequential when you consider the financial impacts and human factors hanging in the balance.
Americans depend on the hard work and sacrifices of farmworkers and their families for large portions of our food supply. Farmworkers work grueling days. Their tasks are tedious and backbreaking. Their pay has them at or teetering at poverty levels. Agricultural employers are exempted from some key employment law protections, and current enforcement levels are less than desirous, leading to widespread violations in some sectors.
While we acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of the past, we would do well ethically to maintain a high level of awareness of present-day agricultural production and labor practices, understanding that the continuing struggle of farmworkers and our own sustenance are intricately connected. Let conscience be our guide.
La Marcha no ha terminado. The march is not over.
The exhibition “One Life: Dolores Huerta” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. is now closed. The documentary Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers is available on DVD and BluRay. The music of Agustín Lira is available through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
Encouraged by the civil rights movement, labor organizer Cesar Chavez began in the early 1960s to protest the unfair treatment of farm workers in California and the Southwest, the majority of whom were Mexican or Mexican American. In 1963 he and Dolores Huerta founded the forerunner of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), which launched a boycott of California table grapes in 1965 as part of a movement to improve working conditions for field laborers. This eventually resulted in a national boycott of grapes by many sympathetic Americans. This painting links modern-era activists Chavez and Huerta to historic figures Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos (leaders in Mexico’s War of Independence) and Emiliano Zapata (Mexican revolutionary and champion of agrarian reform), who shared their Mexican heritage and a commitment to justice. The painting’s title refers both to the mythical homeland of the Aztec people and to the cultural realm of greater Mexico.
Nacido en North Gila Valley, cerca de Yuma, Arizona
Incentivado por el movimiento en pro de los derechos civiles, el sindicalista Cesar Chavez comenzó en los años sesenta a organizar protestas por el tratamiento injusto que recibían los trabajadores agrícolas de California y el suroeste de Estados Unidos, que eran en su mayoría mexicanos o mexicano-americanos. En 1963, Chavez y Dolores Huerta fundaron la organización predecesora de la United Farm Workers of America (Unión de Trabajadores Campesinos de América) y en 1965 iniciaron un boicot de las uvas de California como parte del movimiento para mejorar las condiciones de los trabajadores rurales. Este acto terminó por generar un boicot nacional por parte de muchos estadounidenses solidarios. Esta pintura vincula a los activistas modernos Chavez y Huerta con las figuras históricas de Miguel Hidalgo y José María Morelos (líderes de la Guerra de Independencia de México) y Emiliano Zapata (revolucionario mexicano y defensor de la reforma agraria), quienes compartían la herencia mexicana y el compromiso con la causa de la justicia. El título de la obra alude a la mítica tierra ancestral de los aztecas y a la cultura mexicana en general.
Photographed at his headquarters in California, Chavez stands in a doorway bordered by Aztec eagles—the UFW’s symbol, which Chavez helped to design.
He was the first baseball player to hit 60 home runs in a single season and later his record of more than 700 career homers made Babe Ruth seem nearly superhuman.
In fact, researchers at Columbia University became so entranced by his knack for setting records that they conducted an efficiency study on the Sultan of Swat and found that he was actually more productive and powerful than the average person—working at 90 percent efficiency compared to the average 60 percent.
By the end of his career, he held 56 records and was among the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This summer a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery chronicles Ruth’s professional and personal life as part of the museum’s “One Life” series, which has delved into the lives of such luminaries as Martin Luther King Jr., Sandra Day O’Connor, Elvis Presley, Walt Whitman, Dolores Huerta, Ronald Reagan and Katharine Hepburn.
“He could be loud and brash and overbearing, but the old players I talked with invariably smiled when they remembered Ruth and spoke fondly of him,” wrote Ruth’s biographer, Robert W. Creamer for Smithsonian magazine in 1994. “Once, probing for an adverse opinion, I asked an old-timer, ‘Why did some people dislike Ruth?’ ‘Dislike him?’ he said. ‘People got mad at him, but I never heard of anybody who didn’t like Babe Ruth.’”
Ruth’s unprecedented athletic prowess pushed him into the public’s consciousness in a way never seen before. He was one of the first to be famous enough to require a publicity agent to handle his affairs. The agent, Christy Walsh, was responsible for arranging the efficiency studies at Columbia that were eventually published in Popular Science in 1921.
Walsh was also involved in leveraging the Babe’s fame into fortune. In one of the first contracts of its kind, Walsh secured Ruth’s permission to tack his name on a ghostwritten sports column. Later, he further commodified Ruth’s name and image in some of the first celebrity-endorsed product marketing. A box of “Babe Ruth Underwear” and a wrapper from “Ruth’s Home Run” chocolate are both on display in the exhibition.
While the Babe’s athletic achievements were known around the world, his life outside the stadium remained unreported. Unlike the ubiquitous tabloid coverage of today’s celebrities, Babe’s personal life was just that—personal. In that era reporters met Ruth, who led a tabloid-worthy life wrought with affairs and an illegitimate child, at the baseball field and let him leave in peace.
“He wouldn’t have lasted in this day and age,” says historian and curator of the exhibition James G. Barber, noting today’s media obsession with celebrities and their personal lives.
Although little is known about Ruth’s life outside the stadium besides his penchant for beautiful women, Barber aimed to paint a near-complete picture of Ruth—one as family man, philanthropist, and, of course, enviable baseball player.
“My great interest with Babe Ruth is his personal life. That’s something that’s hard to capture, it’s hard to recreate,” says Barber. But the show's prints, photographs, memorabilia and advertising materials deliver a compelling narrative.
A photograph of Ruth with his wife and daughter shows Ruth’s softer side, though it was later revealed that the young child in the picture was that of one of Ruth’s mistresses.
In another photograph from 1926, Babe Ruth poses with a group of children at an orphanage called St. Ann’s Home. A young child in the photo holds one of those “Ruth’s Home Run” chocolate wrappers.
Few studio photographs exist of the Babe, but in one sepia-toned image from 1920 Ruth wears his signature Yankees uniform and poses with a baseball bat. Just under his knee is his signature in perfect script, a skill for which Ruth took great pride.
“His life was a mess but his signature was letter perfect,” says Barber.
In addition to the photographs of Ruth on the field, and the products marked with his round face, the exhibition features a baseball bat he once gifted to the mayor of Chicago.
At the end of the exhibition are images and paraphernalia from Ruth’s funeral, which in 1948 attracted tens of thousands of fans to St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York. Other photographs feature baseball players who eventually broke some of Ruth’s records such as Hank Aaron, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford.
“He was the best player who ever lived. He was better than Ty Cobb, better than Joe DiMaggio, better than Henry Aaron, better than Bobby Bonds. He was by far the most flamboyant. There’s never been anyone else like him,” wrote Creamer.
“One Life: Babe Ruth” continues through May 21, 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery.
“The distance, watching you in its black cloak, will not have the strength to separate us. . .” These wistful words, written in Spanish, appear in a 1927 poem entitled “La ausencia,” or “The Absence.” The author, Blanca Rosa López Rodríguez, was a 20-year-old news reporter in Mexico City, who had left her rigidly patriarchal Guatemalan homeland in search of a way to impact the world around her in her own right. Within three years, she would change her name to Luisa Moreno, cementing for the rest of her life la distancia between her and her disapproving family back home.
Rodríguez moved from Mexico City to New York City in 1928, seeking a fresh start in the so-called land of the free. What she found upon joining the labor force at a bleak industrial garment factory was that the United States had a long way to go before it could rightfully claim that title. Wages were paltry, hours were long and discrimination against nonwhites ran rampant. As the Great Depression took hold in 1930, Rodríguez rechristened herself and joined the roster of the Communist Party. Dedicated to workplace reform and women's rights, the Party, whose name would be irrevocably tarnished amid the paranoia of the Cold War, was at the time a perfect fit for an up-and-coming workers' rights champion. A woman on a mission, “Luisa Moreno” rose to become one of the most prominent and impactful labor activists in the nation.
Moreno’s story is the focus of a new installation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, a display case with interactive touchscreen panels that was added to the “American Enterprise” exhibition last week. The exhibition, which opened in 2015, unpacks the growth of industry in the U.S. since the country’s foundation. Yet behind the history of every business is the history of its workers, and curator Mireya Loza, who oversaw the installation of the new Luisa Moreno display, believes passionately that labor leaders in Moreno’s mold deserve inclusion.
“I think Moreno’s life story is a wonderful story—this is squarely American history of union organizing and civil rights,” Loza says. “In an exhibition on American enterprise, I thought it would be fantastic to think about workers. And she represented the interests of workers.”Agricultural workers in the Depression Era exerted themselves all day long for meager wages. Immigrants had it especially hard, and Luisa Moreno sought to secure them the respect they deserved. (OSU Special Collections, Wikimedia Commons)
Having participated in several strikes at the garment plant, Moreno quit to become a full-time advocate for immigrant laborers everywhere, signing on with the American Federation of Labor as an organizer in 1935. Traveling south to Florida, she rallied underpaid workers in the state’s sun-beaten tobacco fields. This was just the beginning.
Moreno soon pivoted to the Unified Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA), a group closely affiliated with John L. Lewis’s Congress of Industrial Organizations (the AFL and CIO would not merge until 1955). Moreno became both the first woman and first person of Latin descent appointed to the CIO council, and in the early 1940s journeyed westward to help Californian food processing employees coalesce into unions.
“I think the biggest splash she made in terms of long-term impact was probably in Southern California,” Loza says, “not because she didn’t do fantastic work in other places, but because there she actually starts to create the Spanish-Speaking People’s Congress, which was a nice dovetail between her labor activism and civil rights work.” El Congreso de Pueblos de Hablan Española, as it was known in Spanish, was born at Moreno’s urging in 1938, and went on to become a vital outlet for Mexican-American voices, who used the organization efficaciously to lobby for protective legislation and reforms in housing and education.
Loza recounts Moreno’s run-in with contemporary labor leader Emma Tenayuca, a Mexican-American cut from the same cloth. On her way west, Moreno made a noteworthy stop in Texas. Having learned of Tenayuca’s efforts to protect migrant pecan sellers, Moreno lent a hand with activism in San Antonio.Many supported Luisa Moreno when she came under federal fire for her Communist leanings (above, a pamphlet produced by her advocates), but their protests were to no avail. Moreno saw no option but to flee the country with her daughter and husband. (NMAH)
“Tenayuca is a homegrown Tejana,” says Loza, who herself called the Lone Star State home for a time, “and you have Luisa Moreno, a figure from Guatemala, and Moreno assists Emma Tenayuca in her labor activism. And you have this moment where there’s two dynamic women leading this labor movement who collide in San Antonio, Texas.” Loza’s wide smile and rapid speech make her own admiration for these heroines readily apparent. “I just wish I could be a fly on the wall at that moment,” she says.
Moreno’s commitment to immigrant laborers endured across World War II. But in the postbellum “red scare” that marked the onset of America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union, Moreno’s workers’ rights campaign was tragically truncated. Increasingly unsympathetic toward activist immigrants, the federal government in 1950 concocted a warrant for Moreno’s immediate deportation, citing her association with the Communist Party as a threat to national security.
Rather than subject herself to the humiliation of forced removal, Moreno left the U.S. that November, returning to Mexico with her daughter Mytyl and her second husband, Nebraskan Navy man Gary Bemis. In time, the family made their way back to Moreno’s point of origin, Guatemala. When her spouse died in 1960, Moreno relocated temporarily to Castro’s Cuba. But it was Guatemala where the fiery labor leader passed away in November of 1994, the distancia between her and her birthplace finally erased.
“Often, when I think about her departure,” Loza says of Moreno’s expulsion from the U.S., “I think about all the talent and expertise, and all of that dynamic vision, that left with her.”
Moreno paved the way for the United Farm Workers, but is today nowhere near as well-known as those she inspired. “Oftentimes, we attribute Dolores Huerta and César Chávez as the beginning of labor activism and civil rights work,” Loza says, “but in fact, there are a lot of folks like Luisa Moreno” who made their successes possible. Moreno is an especially powerful example, Loza adds, in that she, unlike Huerta and Chávez, was not a U.S. citizen.The newly unveiled Luisa Moreno display at the American History Museum includes a book of her poetry and the shawl she wore in the last years of her life. (NMAH)
American Enterprise’s new display contains intimate mementos of Moreno’s life, artifacts donated to the Smithsonian by the labor activism historian Vicki Ruiz, who had herself received them as gifts from Moreno’s daughter, Mytyl. The display includes the book of poetry Moreno published in 1927, back when she was still Blanca Rosa López Rodríguez. It also features a widely distributed pamphlet railing against the prospect of her deportation, and an elegant white shawl that Moreno wore about her neck in the last years of her life.
Loza is looking forward to sharing these treasures with the American public, and in particular those of Central American heritage. “Moreno’s story shows us that the Latino civil rights story is not only a Mexican story, but that Central Americans also played a role,” Loza says. “And the aspect that she’s a woman, a woman from a different country, really makes me hope that the Central American community can see how they contributed to Latino civil rights.”
Most great men have one. Malcolm X has one. Gandhi has one. Mandela got one last year. And now, Cesar Chavez has his.
The biographical film or “biopic”—like Cesar Chavez, which came out this past weekend—lends itself to the creation of legends. In the case of Chavez, the legend is complicated by the fact that his story did not exactly lead to the liberation of the people he represented. Great strides were made during the heyday of the farm workers movement—namely the first contracts for farm workers and a California law that recognized their right to unionize. But field workers today suffer indignities familiar to those who worked in rural California prior to Chavez starting a union in 1962.
These facts are not the concern of Diego Luna, the Mexican niño prodigio turned director of the new film. In a recent appearance at UCLA, Luna told his audience, "We have to send a message to the [film] industry that our stories have to be represented. And with the depth and the complexity they deserve."
Fair enough. As a Mexican American and a historian, I too long for dignified cinematic portrayals of Latinos—if for no other reason than to impart histories to my students that convey the struggles for equality our people have initiated. College professors can only show John Sayles’ terrific 1996 film Lone Star, about a Texas border town, so many times. 2011’s A Better Life, about an undocumented gardener in Los Angeles, is a welcome but all too rare addition to the genre.
Farm workers cheering in the new film about the life of Cesar Chavez. (Photo: © Copyright Pantelion Films 2013)
My yearnings, however, should not come at the expense of historical accuracy, as they do in Cesar Chavez. Having recently published a book on the United Farm Workers and Chavez, I could easily get very particular about the details. (Pointing out, for example, that Luna situates the 1973 picket-line murder of farm worker Juan de la Cruz prior to 1970.)
But in the new film, Luna’s omissions and alterations are really historical subversions and go well beyond the poetic license we should permit filmmakers. His interpretation, I suspect, is a product of his unsophisticated handling of U.S. identity politics. He rejects the multiethnic community that made up the farm workers movement in favor of a simplistic notion that Mexicans did all the work. Creating a hero comes at the expense of depicting an entire social movement.
The Filipino American National Historical Society has rightly come out against the film’s misrepresentation of labor leader Larry Itliong, and the erasure of others such as Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco. They’ve also questioned Luna’s failure to acknowledge the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee--an organization made up largely of Filipinos--which initiated the 1965 grape strike. The strike functions as a turning point for the union’s formation in the film.
Similarly, any mention of white volunteers and organizers beyond Fred Ross, Cesar’s mentor, and Jerry Cohen, the talented leader of the UFW legal team, is absent. Several white ministers and students played a critical role in launching and sustaining the movement, including Reverend Jim Drake, who came up with the winning strategy of the boycott, not Chavez. As the film lumbers toward the epic signing of the first contracts in 1970, Luna’s most egregious distortion of history comes when he shows Chavez boarding a ship to London. In the film, the labor leader walks the wharf on the Thames River, lobbies dockworkers not to unload grapes, and appeals to consumers not to buy the fruit. Although this work actually happened, it was a young Jewish American volunteer, Elaine Elinson, who almost singlehandedly convinced the British and Scandinavian unions to keep the grapes out of Europe.
The film even fails to represent accurately the supporting cast of Mexican American activists in Cesar’s orbit. Gilbert Padilla, played by Yancey Arias, and Dolores Huerta, played by Rosario Dawson, come off as nothing more than a yes-man and yes-woman to Chavez when, in fact, they were distinguished organizers in their own right and effective innovators of new strategies, including the boycott. Only Helen Chavez, Cesar’s wife, is presented as a character with her own mind and story, a tribute to America Ferrera’s standout performance.
Leader of the Migrant Workers Union, Cesar Chavez speaking in 1970. (Photo: National Archives/Cornelius Keyes)
But the film probably does the greatest disservice to Cesar Chavez himself. The director opts out of the 1970s altogether, a period in which Chavez struggled with personal and professional demons, lost interest in organizing farm workers, and became invested in creating a community rather than solidifying gains made in the previous decade. Such a storyline would have done little to burnish his credentials as a civil and labor rights leader, but it would have made for a more dramatic and compelling film. More importantly, it would have made for a much more accurate portrait of the depth and complexity of the real man.These omissions reflect the limitations of the genre and the hero-making project of this film in particular. With rare exception, biopics elide complexity and avoid overt criticism of their subjects. This is why the most extraordinary and entertaining renditions of historical figures have often come via fictionalized characters, whether it be Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane based on William Randolph Hearst (Citizen Kane), Roman Polanski’s Noah Cross based on William Mulholland (Chinatown), or P. T. Anderson’s Daniel Plainview based on Edward Doheny (There Will Be Blood).
In fairness to Luna, Chavez was delivered to him with decades of historical baggage, thanks to hagiography and political stamps of approval from Robert Kennedy, Jerry Brown, and most recently, Barack Obama. Although new histories are now being written, including Miriam Pawel’s impressive biography, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, it will take time for the public’s perception of the hero to catch up with the all-too-human Chavez. Sadly, Luna’s film does almost nothing to assist this move toward a new understanding of Cesar Chavez’s life and the successes and failures of the movement he led.
Matt Garcia is the director of the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. His most recent book, From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement (University of California Press), won the Philip Taft Award for the Best Book in Labor History, 2013. He wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.
In the pages of this year’s titles, one may travel backward—or forward—in time; find the rewards of courage, hope and creativity; observe what it means to beat the odds or make a difference. Conjuring up settings from a Maine cottage, shuttered snug against winter, to the forests of Kenya or the hidden mountain canyons of Tibet, each book evokes a world where we may discover our shared humanity.
The age categories listed below are, of necessity, arbitrary. Adjust any choices to the age and reading level of the individual child.
For the Youngest Readers
Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano
The “twelve little girls in two straight lines” troop straight into the Oval Office.
Beaver Is Lost by Elisha Cooper
Adrift on a log, stranded in the maze of city streets: Will he ever make his way back to the den on a lake deep in the forest?
Who’s in the Garden? By Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Jill McDonald
An inventive lift-the-flap book reveals the creatures hidden in the green world of furrows, blossoms and flourishing vegetables.
Boo Cow by Patricia Baehr, illustrated by Margot Apple
Down on Chicken Noodle Farm, everyone is at a loss when a benevolent bovine ghost suddenly melts into thin air.
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
An affectionate paean to reading readiness.
Sleepover at Gramma’s House by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Jan Jutte
It’s every toddler’s dream destination—and in these pages, we understand why.
The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez
A dreamily compelling—and wordless—picture book contemplates the essence of friendship.
Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
A turn-the-flap tome recreates a reassuring nighttime ritual.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Fractured fairy tales pepper an uproarious take on the bedtime book.
Creak! Said the Bed by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Regan Dunnick
On a cold and windy night, you might think that there couldn’t possibly be room for one more—but there you would be wrong!
Mr. Putter & Tabby Clear the Decks by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
Four irrepressible friends head out to sea in the latest installment in a first-reader series that has no equal.
What’s the Big Idea, Molly? By Valeri Gorbachev
Creativity and persistence go hand in hand, as a young poet and her artist friends discover.
Slow Down for Manatees by Jim Arnosky
A dramatic rescue saves a mother and calf from disaster.
A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Laura Rankin
What’s a spiky hedgehog girl to do when she sets her sights on an all-too-fragile toy? A case study in thinking outside the box.
Grandma Drove the Snowplow by Katie Clark, illustrated by Amy Huntington
When Christmas celebrations are jeopardized, not even the heaviest snowfall of the year stands in the way of Grandma once she resolves to bring yuletide cheer to the Maine town she calls home.
The Lonely Phone Booth by Peter Ackerman, illustrated by Max Dalton
That plexiglass enclosure on the corner might seem a forlorn anachronism—until an unexpected crisis strikes an urban neighborhood.
Side by Side/Lado a Lado by Monica Brown, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
How Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez joined forces to improve conditions for farmworkers.
Little Wolf’s Song by Britta Teckentrup
It’s up to a cub to find his own special howl.
For Middle Readers
The Inside Tree by Linda Smith, illustrated by David Parkins
Large-hearted Mr. Potter never wants any living thing to be left out in the cold.
A Boy Named FDR: How Franklin D. Roosevelt Grew Up to Change America by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
From his childhood on, compassion and determination were watchwords for the boy who would one day see the nation through the Great Depression.
The Humblebee Hunter by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Jen Corace
At his lively country house, Charles Darwin enlisted his children as helpers in his hands-on natural history experiments: an ingenious introduction to the scientific method.
Wolf Pie by Brenda Seabrook, illustrated by Liz Callen
Can three little pigs and a sworn enemy ever be friends? Only time will tell in this clever chapter book.
Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, illustrated by Carol Benioff
On early spring nights across North America, a network of volunteers fans out to help the spotted amphibians cross roads during spring migration. The authors celebrate that annual community effort to save a species.
Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Ghayka
On the streets of Bangladesh, a girl devises a secret plan to seek her heart’s desire: a chance to attend school.
Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares
One of baseball’s all-time greats started out on sandlots where he had little more than his dreams—and a burning love for the sport.
The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault
In the hills of Honduras, a visionary teacher forever alters the lives of villagers.
The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
The author—a national treasure if ever there were one—turns to another chapter in her autobiography, recalling the talented misfit kids she met in an extraordinary teacher’s classroom.
Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot by Anita Silvey, paintings by Wendell Minor
Critical to the success of the Revolution, but lesser known today, the fearless and fiercely intelligent Knox was an unlikely hero beloved by General Washington.
Everything But the Horse by Holly Hobbie
The artist recalls her family’s move to the country in an homage to her happy childhood.
Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
How Wangari Maathai overcame every obstacle to save the landscape of Kenya—one tree at a time.
The Can Man by Laura E. Williams, illustrated by Craig Orback
Simple acts of reciprocal kindness transform two lives.
Game Set Match: Champion Arthur Ashe by Crystal Hubbard, illustrated by Kevin Belford
The traits of perseverance and empathy defined an athlete who defied barriers to become the top-ranked tennis player in the world.
Lilly and the Pirates by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Rob Shepperson
A delightful read-aloud and imaginative recital of high adventure on the seven seas.
The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage by Iris Van Rynbach and Pegi Deitz Shea, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
In 1869, when a pair of sisters refused to pay a property tax levied by a town council they couldn’t elect, the two of them set America’s women on the path to winning the vote.
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
In the early 1950s, an African-American family traversing the Jim Crow South makes its way to Alabama with the help of an indispensable travel guide, and the kindness of strangers.
The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Linda Wingerter
A thrilling recent interlude in the history of field science recounts the expedition of wildlife biologist George Schaller and his companions, who faced down hardship and danger to locate the remote calving grounds of the endangered goat-antelopes prized for their wool.
Image by Candlewick Press. "Creak!" Said the Bed by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Regan Dunnick. (original image)
Image by Boxer Books. Little Wolf's Song by Britta Teckentrup. (original image)
Image by Harper. The Inside Tree by Linda Smith, illustrated by David Parkins. (original image)
Image by Boyds Mills Press. Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, illustrated by Carol Benioff. (original image)
Image by Kids Can Press. The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault. (original image)
Image by Philomel Books. The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. (original image)
Image by Carolholda Books. Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (original image)
Image by G.P. Putnam's Sons. Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson. (original image)
Image by Barefoot Books. The Arabian Nights by Wafa' Tarnowska, illustrated by Carole Hénaff. (original image)
Goal! By Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by A. G. Ford
In a dusty South African township, an ordinary soccer match represents far more than a simple game.
Rain School by James Rumford
The author drew on his experience of teaching in Chad to portray a village’s commitment to educating its children—against all odds.
Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
In the depths of the Depression, times are hard and getting harder for a struggling family—until young Marshall applies his talent in math to save the day.
Lincoln Tells a Joke by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer, illustrated by Stacy Innerst
A humanizing glimpse of the 16th president reveals his capacity to laugh—even at himself.
That Cat Can’t Stay by Thad Krasnesky, illustrated by David Parkins
There’s really no point in putting your foot down, when the entire household is bent on taking in just one more stray. This droll tribute to dads who are softies at heart is sure to become a family favorite.
Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Alix Delinois, and Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson. Two picture books convey the indomitable spirit of islanders rebuilding a future in the wake of the devastating earthquake.
The Arabian Nights by Wafa’ Tarnowska, illustrated by Carole Henaff
The Lebanese-born author offers a magnificent new translation of eight tales from the legendary story cycle, based on a 14th-century manuscript.
Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman
Invincible and deeply admired by General Washington, the young marquis made a new nation’s cause his own.
Come See the Earth Turn by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Raul Allen
On February 3, 1851, Leon Foucault, a genius laboring in obscurity, unveiled an experiment that proved what no other scientist had succeeded in demonstrating: that the earth spins on its axis.
The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Wit and whimsy abound in a tale of a princess who throws off the shackles of a stultifying existence.
Blue Jay Girl by Sylvia Ross
The vivid novel evokes the lost world of California’s Yaudanchi tribe and honors its legacy of traditional healing.
Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard
In a Himalayan kingdom long ago, a young girl seeks her fortune with the help of kindly monkeys—and magic.
Our Earth: How Kids Are Saving the Planet by Janet Wilson
From a self-taught Malian boy who built a windmill to generate electricity for his village, to a Costa Rican girl who founded a rainforest-preservation NGO, it’s kids to the rescue.
Dinosaur Mountain: Digging Into the Jurassic Age by Deborah Kogan Ray
In 1908, adventurer and field scientist Earl Douglass set off for a remote corner of northeastern Utah—and became a renowned paleontologist.
Movie Maker: Everything You Need to Know to Create Films on Your Cell Phone or Digital Camera! By Tim Grabham et al. For the aspiring director on your list, whether the goal is creating dramas, documentaries or animation, an amazing hands-on kit. For all ages, 8 or so and beyond.
Theodore Roosevelt for Kids by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
The life and times of the ebullient 26th president, with activities to bring history alive.
For Older Readers
(Ages 10 and up)
Scumble by Ingrid Law
The Wild West—and the lexicon of the tall tale—form the backdrop for the heroics of 13-year-old Ledger Kale, who hasn’t quite grown into his magical powers.
A Gift From Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood by Baba Wagué Diakité
The author recalls the Malian village that nurtured him and sustains him today.
As Easy as Falling Off the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
The novelist brings her prodigious talents to the tale of Ry, a teenager who meets up with a good Samaritan in the nick of time, after he is stranded in what seems the middle of nowhere.
Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
For 10-year-old Penelope Grey, cosseted her entire life, the real saga commences only when everything has been lost.
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis
A phantasmagorical rumination on the childhood of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is rooted in a belief that words possess the power to mend the spirit and change the world.
Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors
The whimsical tale turns on droopy-eared Dog—and two resourceful siblings who leave their farm in search of a secret society of explorers. A winner, first page to last.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
The author based this novel on the childhood experiences of Salva Dut, born in Sudan but now living in the United States. It is a testament to undaunted courage. (Contains mature content)
Around the World in 100 Days by Gary Blackwood
The springboard for this rip-roaring historical novel was an actual globe-spanning automobile race of 1908.
Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath
Horvath’s inimitable voice, sense of fun and quiet belief in the power of tolerance—here applied to the odyssey of a plucky young heroine and her family—showcase the writer at the height of her powers.
Crunch by Leslie Connor
The Marriss family’s bike-repair business is not exactly a going concern—until the day that the gas pumps run dry across the nation. Connor’s high-spirited romp pays tribute to the rewards of a can-do spirit.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Rollicking good fun, Holm’s touching novel transports readers to the Depression-era Florida Keys, where 11-year-old Turtle finds a whole new world after her aunt Minerva Curry takes her in.
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
There is nothing more difficult than turning your back on the past and the choices one made, as Reese discovers when he is sent to a juvenile facility. Myers has few peers in summoning the world of at-risk kids who are trying to make their way toward a better future. (Contains mature content)
Ashes by Kathryn Lasky
In a novel set in 1932 Berlin, 13-year-old Gabriella Schramm perceives the burgeoning threat shadowing their neighbor, a physicist named Albert Einstein, and her own scientist father.
Earth Heroes: Champions of the Wilderness by Bruce and Carol L. Malnor, illustrated by Anisa Claire Hovemann; Earth Heroes: Champions of the Ocean by Fran Hodgkins, illustrated by Cris Arbo; Earth Heroes: Champions of Wild Animals by Carol L. and Bruce Malnor, illustrated by Anisa Claire Hovemann.
The series on conservationist scientists continues with profiles of figures from pioneering environmentalist Aldo Leopold to ichthyologist Eugenie Clark and ethologist Jane Goodall.
The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
When his older brother returns from a tour of duty as a Marine in the Middle East, high-school age Levi leaves everyday life behind to help his brother begin to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder. (Contains mature content)
Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater
Wacky, big-hearted and wildly original, the novel unspools the escapades of big Audrey, whose feline lineage takes her far after a UFO touches down behind the big stone barn.
Efrain’s Secret by Sofia Quintero
For a gifted high-school student in the South Bronx, the yearning to escape the streets and attain an Ivy League education can become a dangerous aspiration. Quintero’s sensitive and fast-paced novel depicts the daunting challenges facing a boy who is attempting to transcend his circumstances. (Contains mature content)
And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle
In the mountains of Switzerland in 1949, a boarding-school student meets a mysterious boy—and soon finds herself enmeshed in the aftermath of the war. L’Engle’s novel, re-issued in a new edition, contains an introduction by her granddaughter.
Flash by Michael Cadnum
A meditation on unintended consequences and the cost of violence explores dual narrative threads, the first involving brothers who set themselves on a self-destructive trajectory, and the second introducing a pair of siblings who thwart the mayhem before it can be fully unleashed. (Contains mature content)
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
At the fantastical New York Circulating Material Repository—which lends out objects rather than books—magical artifacts from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales begin to disappear. That’s when our heroine begins hurtling into an alternative reality, in a tour-de-force fantasy novel also grounded fully in the here and now.
An interview of Celia Alvarez Muñoz conducted 2004 Feb. 7-28, by Cary Cordova, for the Archives of American Art, in Arlington, Tex.
Muñoz speaks of her early childhood and close relationship to her maternal grandmother Damiana Esparza Limón; travels to California in high school; Father Rahm, the youth center, and the opportunity to go to college; Dr. Robert Massey who was an etcher and took Muñoz under his wing; her zeal graduating from Texas Western University; teaching art to school children; her marriage; experimenting with photography; the theory of deconstruction; being a writer; the "Enlightenment" series, which began in graduate school; spirituality and philosophy; Dolores Hayden and the University of California at Los Angeles program in architecture and urban planning; her consciousness of feminism; meeting Lucy Lippard and discussing her evolution; language and the multiple meanings of words; the significance of architecture within her work; the Dallas/Fort Worth airport project; the importance of her family and their support throughout her life; Xeroxing and use of transparencies; and the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas. Muñoz also recalls Al Souza, Ashley Walker, Rupert Garcia, Vicky Ruiz, Benito Huerta, and others.